Wednesday, December 07, 2016

child abuse - expunction - hearing - right to individual notice

J.P. v. Department of Human Services – Cmwlth. Court – November 21, 2016


J.P., paramour of child’s parent, was entitled to appeal and have a hearing to challenge the CYS finding that she had abused the child, because she had not received notice or opportunity to participate in a prior juvenile proceeding, which changed a finding of “indicated” to a finding of “founded.”

Commonwealth Court held that JP had not received adequate notice of the juvenile court hearing, nor had she received that court’s order.  A founded report of child abuse is an adjudication and that, under Section 504 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa.C.S. § 504, ‘[n]o adjudication of a Commonwealth agency shall be valid as to any party unless he shall have been afforded reasonable notice of a hearing and an opportunity to be heard.’  K.R. v. Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 950 A.2d 1069, 1077 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008) [emphasis in original].  “Due process of law requires notice to be given to the respondent so that [s]he may adequately prepare h[er] defense in such cases.” Straw v. Pa. Human Relations Comm’n, 308 A.2d 619, 621 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1973) [emphasis in original].

Here, the only notice provided regarding the dependency hearing was the notice to J.P.’s paramour. The fact that J.P. read his notice, does not transform his notice to her notice. This conclusion is especially true here, where J.P. testified that she “was told specifically from [CYS] themselves that any matter pertaining to anything that has to do with the [C]hild, I am not allowed to ask any questions” and she assumed she would not be permitted to participate in the dependency hearing because she was not the Child’s parent.

While “[DHS] may rely on the factual findings of the trial court in a dependency adjudication to dismiss an appeal for a request for expungement[,]” K.R., 950 A.2d at 1078, because J.P. did not receive notice prior to the adjudication, she did not receive the requisite due process for a valid adjudication.
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