Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re J.S.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

May 11, 2018

In re J.S., a Minor
v.
Jonathon S., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, In re T.S., a Minor The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
Jonathon S., Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 14-JA-75, 14-JA-76 Honorable Francis M. Martinez, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Burke and Schostok concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          ZENOFF JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Respondent, Jonathon S., appeals the Winnebago County circuit court's finding that he was an unfit parent and its order terminating his parental rights. Respondent argues that the trial court violated his statutory rights under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/1-5 (West 2016)) and his due process rights under the United States Constitution when it conducted the proceedings in his absence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On the afternoon of February 19, 2014, Rockford police responded to a report of a child calling out for help at the home of J.S. and T.S. Police found seven-year-old J.S. at home alone. He stated that he had been alone in the house since coming home from school. J.S. lived in the house with his mother, his mother's paramour, and his three-year-old brother, T.S. He was unable to state where his mother worked, and he did not know a telephone number where she could be contacted. J.S. shared that he sometimes babysat T.S. and the one-year-old son of his mother's paramour. Police also found marijuana, scales, and a BB pistol on a dresser. Later that evening, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) took protective custody of J.S. and T.S.

         ¶ 4 When the boys were taken into protective custody, their father, respondent, was incarcerated at a federal correctional facility in Wisconsin, where he remained throughout the entirety of these proceedings. Respondent had been named in a 20-count federal indictment in Iowa alleging a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute large quantities of illicit drugs from 2008 to 2011. That indictment resulted in his conviction in 2012 of drug trafficking crimes and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes. 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), (b)(1)(C) (2012); 21 U.S.C. § 846 (2012); 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i) (2012). Respondent also had prior felony convictions in Illinois. In 2007, he was convicted of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of public housing, a Class X felony, when he twice sold crack cocaine to a cooperating witness. 720 ILCS 570/401(c)(2), 407(b)(1) (West 2006). In 2005, respondent was convicted of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, a Class 4 felony, when he and his coconspirators robbed a convenience store clerk in Boone County of $575 while using a handgun. 720 ILCS 5/8-2(a) (West 2002).

         ¶ 5 On February 21, 2014, the State filed neglect petitions as to J.S. and T.S. On that day, the trial court was informed that respondent was incarcerated at a federal correctional facility in Wisconsin. The mother waived her right to a shelter-care hearing, and the trial court found that there was probable cause to believe that the children were neglected. It granted temporary guardianship of J.S. and T.S. to DCFS. On April 22, 2014, DCFS conducted an integrated assessment of respondent by phone, and he indicated that he had started parenting classes and was very interested in the outcome of this case. On April 28, 2014, after being informed that respondent wished to be represented, the trial court appointed counsel. On May 22, 2014, respondent's attorney informed the trial court that a writ of habeas corpus had been issued directing the federal correctional facility to deliver respondent to the court but that the writ had not been honored. The trial court had previously noted that it did not believe that the federal government would honor a state writ.

         ¶ 6 On June 26, 2014, respondent's attorney notified the trial court that she had spoken with respondent and that he would be forwarding documentation of various services he was engaging in while incarcerated. Respondent, through counsel, waived his right to an adjudicatory hearing. The mother stipulated to one count of the neglect petition, which alleged that the minors had been left unsupervised for an unreasonable period of time. The trial court found that J.S. and T.S. were neglected minors, appointed DCFS as their legal guardian and custodian, and ordered both parents to cooperate with DCFS as to all recommended treatments and services.

         ¶ 7 On December 8, 2014, the trial court conducted the first permanency hearing, which covered the period beginning on June 26, 2014, and ending on December 8, 2014. The assigned caseworker for J.S. and T.S. was employed by Children's Home Aid (CHASI), which contracts with DCFS to provide case management services. He testified that respondent had participated in an integrated assessment and had been assigned a service plan but that respondent had not maintained contact with CHASI since that time. Respondent also had not responded to several letters sent by the caseworker, the latest of which was sent in September 2014. The court directed CHASI to make more vigorous attempts to contact respondent and found that respondent and the minors' mother had both made reasonable efforts and progress toward their service plans during this review period.

         ¶ 8 On May 4, 2015, at the second permanency hearing, covering the period from December 9, 2014, to May 4, 2015, the CHASI caseworker submitted a report indicating that he had established regular contact with respondent via e-mail. The caseworker also reported that he had received no documentation as to any services completed by respondent or a signed copy of respondent's service plan as requested. Additionally, the caseworker testified that staff at the federal correctional facility declined to provide any information as to services completed by respondent, stating that they could not do so without respondent's consent. The trial court found that the mother had made reasonable efforts and progress, but that respondent had not made reasonable efforts or progress toward his plan during that period. The court made the same findings at several subsequent permanency hearings until July 25, 2017, when it found that the mother had also failed to make reasonable efforts or progress. At that time, the court changed the goal from returning the children home within 12 months to "substitute care pending court determination of termination of parental rights."

         ¶ 9 On July 28, 2017, the State filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both respondent and the mother. The State alleged that respondent was unfit on five grounds: (1) he failed to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis of the removal of the children during five periods of review (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(i) (West 2016)); (2) he failed to make reasonable progress toward the return of the children during six periods of review (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2016)); (3) he failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the children's welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2016)); (4) he was depraved (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 2016)); and (5) he failed to protect the children from conditions within his environment injurious to the children's welfare (750 ILCS 50/1(D)(g) (West 2016)).

         ¶ 10 On September 12, 2017, at the arraignment on the State's petition, respondent's attorney informed the court that she had been sending correspondence via regular mail and e-mail to respondent but that she had not received anything back from him in several months. During that same hearing, respondent's brother indicated to the court that he was in regular communication with respondent and that he would pass on the court's concern that respondent contact his attorney. Sometime before a status date on November 3, 2017, respondent sent a letter directly to the court. At that status date, the court announced that it had opened the letter, unaware of the contents, and passed it to respondent's attorney upon realizing its contents. In the letter, the contents of which were then presented to the court by respondent's attorney, respondent asserted that he was to be released to a halfway house in the spring of 2018 and that he had secured employment upon his release. He requested that the court delay proceedings until he had "a chance to get out and prove himself." The court expressed its understanding of respondent's position but opined that the permanency needs of the children demanded that it not delay the proceedings any longer. On that same date, the mother indicated through her attorney that she was prepared to consent to adoption by a specified person.[1] With the expectation that the mother would sign the consent, the court scheduled respondent's unfitness and best-interest hearings for December 22, 2017. It encouraged respondent's attorney to gather any documentary evidence that respondent might have. The court again noted that federal authorities might not honor a state writ to have him appear personally. However, if respondent's attorney could arrange it with the federal facility, the court would allow respondent to participate telephonically. The court stated: "I'm just trying to afford him the opportunity to participate as much as he can."

         ¶ 11 On December 22, 2017, at the unfitness hearing, the trial court started by announcing that respondent's attorney, after extensive effort, had been unable to arrange telephonic participation for respondent. The court announced that it ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.