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In re S. E. K. H.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

February 15, 2017

In the Matter of S. E. K. H., a Child.
v.
S. E. K. H., L. W., and J. H., Jr., Appellants. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent, In the Matter of J. K. H., a Child. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
J. K. H., L. W., and J. H., Jr., Appellants.

          Submitted January 5, 2017

         Yamhill County Circuit Court Nos. 16JU03758, 16JU03759, Petition Nos. 00469337, 00469338; Ladd J. Wiles, Judge.

          George W. Kelly fled the brief for appellant J. H., Jr.

          Tiffany Keast fled the brief for appellant L. W. Megan L. Jacquot fled the brief for appellants children.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Erin K. Galli, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.

         Case Summary: This consolidated juvenile dependency appeal arises from a jurisdictional and dispositional judgment over parents' two children. ORS 419A.200. In that judgment, the juvenile court took dependency jurisdiction over the children under ORS 419B.100(1)(c) on the ground that their conditions and circumstances endangered them and placed them in the legal custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS). In so doing, the court denied children's request to order DHS to place them with their paternal great-grandmother, who intervened in the case under ORS 419B.116, concluding that it lacked the authority to direct DHS to make a specifc placement. Father, mother, and children appeal. Father and mother assign error to the juvenile court's jurisdictional determination, claiming that the evidence is insuffcient to support the fnding that the children were endangered. Mother and children additionally assign error to the juvenile court's dispositional determination that it lacked authority to order DHS to place the children with great-grandmother. Held: There was legally suffcient evidence in the record to permit a fnding that the children were endangered, therefore the juvenile court did not err when it found that jurisdiction over the children was warranted. Additionally, the court did not err when it concluded that it lacked the authority to order DHS to place the children with great-grandmother.

          LAGESEN, J.

         This consolidated juvenile dependency appeal arises from a jurisdictional and dispositional judgment over parents' two children. ORS 419A.200. In that judgment, the juvenile court took dependency jurisdiction over the children under ORS 419B.100(1)(c) on the ground that their conditions and circumstances endangered them and placed them in the legal custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS). In so doing, the court denied children's request to order DHS to place them with their paternal great-grandmother, who intervened in the case under ORS 419B.116, concluding that it lacked the authority to direct DHS to make a specific placement.

         Father, mother, and children appeal. Father and mother assign error to the juvenile court's jurisdictional determination, claiming that the evidence is insufficient to support the finding that the children were endangered. Mother and children additionally assign error to the juvenile court's dispositional determination that it lacked authority to order DHS to place the children with great-grandmother. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         We first address parents' challenge to the juvenile court's jurisdictional determination. The juvenile court took jurisdiction over the children based on its finding that their circumstances-primarily, their exposure to acts of domestic violence between their parents-exposed them to a current threat of harm that was reasonably likely to be realized. See ORS 419B.100(1)(c) (authorizing juvenile court jurisdiction over a child "whose condition or circumstances are such as to endanger the welfare" of the child); Dept. of Human Services v. D. H.. 269 Or.App. 863, 866, 346 P.3d 527 (2015) (under ORS 419B.100(1)(c), the question is whether child's circumstances expose child to a current risk of serious loss or harm that is reasonably likely to be realized). On appeal, parents challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support that determination. We review by viewing the evidence, and the permissible inferences from it, in the light most favorable to the court's ruling "and assess[ing] whether, when so viewed, the record was legally sufficient to permit [the] outcome" reached by the court. Dept. of Human Services v. N. P.. 257 Or.App. 633, 639, 295 P.3d 672 (2013).[1]

         Applying that standard to the record in this case, we are persuaded that the evidence was legally sufficient to permit the juvenile court to determine that jurisdiction over the children was warranted. A detailed recitation of the evidence would not benefit the bench, bar, public, or the parties, and we therefore reject parents' challenges to the jurisdictional judgment without further written discussion.

         The remaining issue is whether the juvenile court was correct to conclude that it lacked authority to order DHS to place children with their great-grandmother, who had intervened in the case as allowed by ORS 419B.116. That is a question of statutory construction, and we review for legal error. State v. Thompson. 328 Or 248, 256, 971 P.2d 879, cert den, 527 U.S. 1042 (1999).

         We start by observing what is not at issue in this appeal. Mother and children do not contend that the juvenile court should have placed the children under the protective supervision of the court and then given legal custody of the children to great-grandmother. ORS 419B.331 would have empowered the court to do that, but that is not what the parties seek.[2] All parties appear to agree that, assuming jurisdiction is warranted, it is in the family's interest to have DHS involved in the case and that the juvenile court correctly determined that the children should be placed in the legal custody of DHS "for care, placement and supervision" under ORS 419B.337(1). Thus, we are not called upon to decide whether the juvenile court abused its discretion by choosing to place children in DHS custody under ORS 419B.337, rather than placing them in the custody of great-grandmother under ORS ...


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