Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division
23 order withdrawn July 28, 2016
Opinion filed August 12, 2016
from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 14-JA-1448; the
Hon. Richard A. Stevens, Judge, presiding.
H. Bornstein, of Chicago, for appellant.
M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J.
Spellberg, Michele Lavin, and Nancy Kisicki, Assistant
State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.
F. Harris, Public Guardian, of Chicago (Kass A. Plain, of
counsel), guardian ad litem.
JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Rochford and Justice Delort
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 The respondent, Latasha C. (Latasha), appeals from an order
of the circuit court of Cook County finding Aniylah B.
(Aniylah), a neglected minor based on an injurious
environment. On appeal, Latasha contends (1) the trial court
erred when it took judicial notice of the transcript and
exhibits admitted at a prior proceeding for temporary custody
in the adjudication proceedings and (2) the trial court's
finding that Aniylah was neglected based on an injurious
environment was against the manifest weight of the evidence.
Latasha does not challenge the trial court's
dispositional order in this appeal.
3 Latasha and Marland B. (Marland) were married in April
2013. Prior to their marriage, Latasha gave
birth to the couples' children, Marlaisa B. and India B.
Latasha had a son, Latristan C-H., from a prior relationship.
The couple's third child, Aniylah, was born on November
4 On December 8, 2014, the State filed a petition for
adjudication of wardship alleging that Aniylah was a
neglected minor, being a minor under the age of 18 years
whose environment was injurious to her welfare (705 ILCS
405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2012)). The petition further alleged that
Aniylah was an abused minor in that a family member or a
person residing in the same home as Aniylah created a
substantial risk of harm to her (705 ILCS 405/2-3(2)(ii)
(West 2012)). The petition contained the following factual
allegations: "[Latasha] has three other minors who are
in [the Department of Children and Family Services] custody
with findings of physical abuse, abuse and/or neglect having
been entered. [Latasha and Marland] have prior indicated
reports for substantial risk of physical injury and cuts,
welts and bruises. [Marland] has been convicted of aggravated
battery to a child for beating [Aniylah's] sibling.
Parents have not made substantial progress in services
offered to assist them in reunifying with [Aniylah's]
siblings. [Marland] is currently incarcerated."
5 A temporary custody hearing was held on December 8, 2014.
The trial court granted temporary custody of Aniylah to the
Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The order
was entered without prejudice. Latasha was allowed supervised
visitation with Aniylah.
6 On April 21, 2015, a contested hearing was held to resolve
the issue of Aniylah's temporary custody. Following the
hearing, the trial court determined that while reasonable
efforts had been made to address the problems that led to
Aniylah's siblings being placed in DCFS's custody,
Latasha's efforts had not been sufficient to eliminate
the urgent and immediate necessity for Aniylah's removal
from her custody. The trial court awarded temporary custody
of Aniylah to DCFS.
7 Prior to the adjudication hearing on the petition for
wardship of Aniylah, the State filed a motion requesting that
the trial court take judicial notice of all non-hearsay sworn
testimony from the April 21, 2015, temporary custody hearing
and certain of the State's exhibits admitted into
evidence at that hearing. The State prepared a redacted
transcript of the April 21, 2015, hearing. Latasha filed
objections to several portions of the redacted transcript on
the grounds of hearsay and inaccuracies in the transcription.
Latasha also objected to testimony addressing Aniylah's
best interests as irrelevant as it was not at issue in an
adjudication proceeding. Latasha objected to the admission of
the October 1, 2014, DCFS service plan and the admission of
the September 10, 2014, Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic
Report (CCJC report), containing an evaluation of
Aniylah's sibling, India B., on the grounds of hearsay.
Latasha also maintained that the documents' probative
value to the issue of abuse or neglect suffered by Aniylah
was outweighed by the unfair prejudice to Latasha that would
result from their admission into evidence at the adjudicatory
8 On October 26, 2015, prior to the start of the adjudicatory
hearing, the trial court heard argument on the State's
motion for judicial notice and Latasha's objections. The
State had further redacted the April 21, 2015, transcript,
removing the hearsay testimony objected to by Latasha. The
trial court acknowledged that best interests was not the
evidentiary standard applicable to an adjudicatory hearing,
but the court ruled that the testimony was relevant as it
provided factual information regarding the risk to the minors
and explained why DCFS removed Aniylah from Latasha's
custody. The court sustained Latasha's objections to the
inaccuracies in the transcript, which were then corrected.
9 Turning to the State's exhibits, the trial court
ordered the State to lay a foundation for the admission of
the DCFS October 1, 2014, service plan, and for the admission
of the September 10, 2014, CCJC report. Latasha stipulated to
the foundation for their admission but did not withdraw her
unfair prejudice objections.
10 The trial court granted the State's motion and took
judicial notice of the October 1, 2014, service plan, the
September 10, 2014, CCJC report, and the redacted transcript,
and admitted them into evidence in the adjudication hearing.
The court overruled Latasha's objections based on the
unfair prejudice, stating that as the trier of fact it was
"clearly capable of not being overly prejudiced by the
statements contained in these exhibits." The court
stated it would accord less weight to those statements in the
October 1, 2014, service plan and the September 10, 2014,
CCJC report that constituted hearsay or double hearsay.
11 At the adjudication hearing, the State presented the
testimony of Debra Woodson, a DCFS supervisor, and Amy
Gordon, a DCFS ...