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Name: In re Emily D.
Case #: B256783
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 02/17/2015
Summary

The juvenile court did not err when it continued jurisdiction hearing in order for Department to introduce additional evidence requested by the court, after the Department had rested its case-in-chief. Mother appealed the juvenile court order taking jurisdiction over the two minors, removing them from her custody, and placing them with their respective fathers under supervision. On appeal, mother contended that the court’s request that the Department provide missing drug test results on the mother, after the Department had rested its case-in-chief, violated her right to due process because the juvenile court improperly assumed the role of prosecutor and acted as advocate for the Department. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that nothing in the court’s actions or statements suggested prejudgment of or bias against mother; nor was there an appearance of unfairness. The court became aware of relevant evidence which had been omitted and asked the Department to supplement the record, to provide the court a clearer understanding of mother’s capacity to parent the minors. The juvenile court is charged with determining whether the allegations in the petition are true and acting in the best interests of the minor. The court did not overstep its role in adjudicating the petition. Further, the court did not abuse its discretion in continuing the hearing in order to obtain the missing evidence. Notwithstanding the court’s failure to make an express finding of good cause for the continuance, the record adequately reflects the court’s conclusion that the test results constituted significant information necessary for its determination of whether substantial evidence supported the petition. Finally, the court’s procedure in this case did not violate section 350, which permits dismissal if the burden of proof is not met. The court may permit a party to reopen and may in some cases have a sua sponte duty to ensure a complete record to protect the child’s interests.