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In re A. L. P.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 8, 2019

In the Matter of A. L. P., a Child.
v.
G. C. P., Appellant. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,

          Submitted February 12, 2019

          Lane County Circuit Court 18JU04242; A168764 Karrie K. McIntyre, Judge.

          Shannon Storey, Chief Defender, Juvenile Appellate Section, and Valerie Colas, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Patrick M. Ebbett, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Powers, Presiding Judge, and Lagesen, Judge, and Brewer, Senior Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Father appeals from the juvenile court's judgment asserting jurisdiction over his four-year-old child, A. Father assigns error to the court's admission of testimony of a pediatrician that commented on the child's credibility. The Department of Human Services concedes that the pediatrician's testimony constituted impermissible vouching and further concedes that the error was not harmless.

         Held:

         The juvenile court erred in failing to exclude the pediatrician's impermissible comment on the credibility of the child and the evidentiary error was not harmless.

         [297 Or. App.456] POWERS, P. J.

         Father appeals from the juvenile court's judgment asserting jurisdiction over his four-year-old child, A, based on child suffering unexplained physical injuries. Father raises a number of assignments of error challenging the juvenile court's determination, including that the juvenile court erred in admitting testimony of a pediatrician that commented on the child's credibility. The Department of Human Services (DHS) concedes that the pediatrician's testimony constituted impermissible vouching and further concedes that the juvenile court's error was not harmless. We accept DHS's concessions on both points, and reverse the jurisdictional judgment.

         Father and mother engaged in a contentious custody battle over child, in which they each contacted DHS to report concerns about each other. For instance, father called DHS in February 2018 to report concerns about an incident of domestic violence in mother's home. In May 2018, after noticing a bruise on child's face, mother called a DHS caseworker who instructed mother to take A for an examination at Liberty House, a child assessment center.

         Dr. Hedlund, a pediatrician at Liberty House, examined child and observed a bruise on child's cheek, a cluster of bruises on child's left arm, some scratches on child's back and chest, and a scar on child's chin. During the examination, child told Hedlund that father caused the forearm bruise, that father hit and punched child, and that father pushed child into a shelf that resulted in the scar on child's chin. Hedlund testified that she did not follow up on child's statements because she was not a forensic interviewer. Hedlund made four diagnoses of child, including a diagnosis of "highly concerning for physical abuse."

         Six days later, child returned to Liberty House for a follow-up interview with a child forensic interviewer. Hedlund testified that, during a forensic interview, the child is alone in the room with the forensic interviewer and there are also video cameras. Hedlund further explained that the medical provider sits in a separate room to take notes for the forensic interviewer and to observe the interview, which she did in this case. When questioned ...


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