No. 24580 -- State v. Julie G.
Starcher, J., dissenting:
judges determine that a child is neglected, or that parental
rights be terminated, the decisions of this court often (and in
my view quite properly) state that in these difficult cases we
must give deference to the circuit court's perception and
weighing of the evidence. Why? Because the judges see the people
involved. The judges get a sense and feel of the situation and
can size it up. Is this parent well-meaning and trying? Could the
parent, with enough support, do a decent job? Look at the child
-- is it really fair to say that the child is neglected? Is it
really fair to say that the parent is an abuser? Is it fair to
separate a child from a parent, even when limited parenting
skills are obvious? It's a tough call to make such
determinations, and I think that it's a call that requires a
face-to-face look at the people involved, to be done well.
But when circuit judges say -- based on the same sorts of assessments -- that a child should not be found to be neglected, or that parental rights should not be terminated, that the court should give the parent-child relationship another chance -- then I sense that our decisions too often tend to find reasons why we shouldn't defer to or trust the circuit judge's judgment.
If my perception is correct, it would mean that our decisions are applying a double standard to circuit judges' decisions in this area, and I hope we will move toward a more even-handed approach. If my perception is wrong, then I hope I will come to see my error, which I admit I don't at this time.
I do not
quarrel with the principles that command us to look to the best
interests of children, but this should not occur without some
concern for parental rights -- and recognition that children
often love very much imperfect parents. To separate children from
their moms and dads in such instances might well violate the very
principles on which we say we are standing -- the best interests
We must trust circuit judges quite a bit in these cases, whichever way they go -- not just when they decide in favor of neglect, abuse, and parental rights termination.
Accordingly, I respectfully dissent. I would uphold the judge's decision.