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People v. T.T.

May 14, 2001

IN RE T.T., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
T.T., SR., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McNULTY

Not Released For Publication

IN RE T.T., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
T.T., SR., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McNULTY

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Donna L. Cervini, Judge Presiding.

 In this case we must decide whether an amendment to the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/0.01 et seq. (West 1998)) applies retroactively. The amendment, effective June 30, 1998, provides that if a parent has three felony convictions, including one within five years of the filing of a petition to terminate parental rights, a rebuttable presumption of parental unfitness arises. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 1998). T.T., Sr., committed three felonies before 1997. The trial court terminated his parental rights over T.T. based on the three convictions. T.T., Sr., now appeals.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) took temporary custody of T.T. in December 1994 and placed him in the home of a relative. DCFS filed a petition for termination of the rights of both parents, in April 1998, after years of working with T.T.'s mother. The trial court terminated the parental rights of T.T.'s mother, and that ruling is not at issue in this appeal.

DCFS moved for summary judgment against T.T., Sr., on one count of the petition for termination of his parental rights. In support DCFS presented certified records showing that in 1992 T.T., Sr., committed burglary, and twice in 1996 he possessed motor vehicles that he knew had been stolen.

When T.T., Sr., committed the felonies, the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/2-29 (West 1992)) and the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 1992)) established that a court could terminate parental rights upon finding clear and convincing evidence of the parent's depravity. The statutes did not define or further explain the facts needed to show depravity. The 1998 amendment to the Adoption Act provided:

"There is a rebuttable presumption that a parent is depraved if the parent has been criminally convicted of at least 3 felonies under the laws of this State or any other state, or under federal law, or the criminal laws of any United States territory; and at least one of these convictions took place within 5 years of the filing of the petition or motion seeking termination of parental rights." 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 1998).

DCFS relied on the amendment as grounds for the summary judgment motion.

T.T., Sr., moved to strike the motion for summary judgment, arguing that the due process clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions (U.S. Const., amend. XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2) prohibited retroactive application of the amendment in the case against him. He also answered that the specific convictions did not show depravity, and he was working towards rehabilitating himself in prison.

At a hearing in December 1998, the trial court held that the constitutions permitted application of the amendment to the case against T.T., Sr. The court then took testimony from T.T., Sr., concerning his rehabilitation efforts. The court expressly found much of his testimony incredible and held that he failed to rebut the presumption of depravity. Therefore the court terminated his parental rights with respect to T.T.

On appeal T.T., Sr., contends only that application of the amended statute in this case violates his right to due process. When an amendment impairs rights a party possessed when he acted, the constitutions permit only prospective application of the amendment. Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Will County Collector, No. 88110, slip op. at 9, (May 3, 2001). If the amendment would have no such retroactive impact, the court may apply the amended law. If an amendment only clarifies existing law, courts ...


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