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J.E. v. Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 29, 2018

J.E., A.B., AND M.E. APPELLANTS
v.
CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; AND A.N.E., A MINOR CHILD APPELLEES AND J.E., A.B., AND M.E. APPELLANTS
v.
CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; AND A.E., A MINOR CHILD APPELLEES J.E., A.B., AND M.E. APPELLANTS
v.
CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; AND Z.E., A MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM WARREN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE DAVID A. LANPHEAR, JUDGE ACTION NOS. 16-J-00450-001, 14-J-00322-001, 14-J-00323-001

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT, J.E.: J.E., pro se Bowling Green, Kentucky

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT, A.B.: A.B., pro se Bowling Green, Kentucky

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT, M.E.: M.E., pro se Bowling Green, Kentucky

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Gregory Vincent Brownsville, Kentucky

          GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR MINOR CHILDREN: Ryan Clifford Reed Bowling Green, Kentucky

          BEFORE: JOHNSON, KRAMER, AND MAZE, JUDGES.

          OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING

          JOY A. KRAMER, JUDGE.

         In a show cause order entered December 22, 2017, the Court ordered appellants to show good cause why the above-styled appeals should not be dismissed as premature based on the fact disposition had not occurred. Appellants thereafter filed a timely response. For the reasons that follow, appellants' arguments lack merit. Consequently, these appeals are hereby dismissed because they are from interlocutory orders.

         The relevant procedural history of these cases is straightforward. After a hearing, adjudication orders were entered in all three underlying cases on September 29, 2017. Disposition was set for November 16, 2017; however, prior to this hearing, appellants filed the above-listed appeals. Thereafter, the circuit court entered an order cancelling further proceedings and finding that the appeal divested the circuit court of jurisdiction. Appellants filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate this order, pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Civil Procedure (CR) 59.05. The circuit court denied the motion. No dispositional orders have been entered since the filing of these appeals.

         Pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 620.155, a parent aggrieved by a proceeding in a dependency, neglect, or abuse case may appeal as a matter of right. The statute, however, does not delineate with particularity the type of proceeding that may be appealed. Juvenile proceedings, including dependency, neglect, and abuse (DNA) actions, are bifurcated proceedings, i.e., they consist of two distinct hearings, adjudication and disposition. KRS 610.080. In the present cases, we must decide whether the rights of all parties have been fully adjudicated for purposes of appellate review in the absence of the completion of both the adjudication and disposition hearings.

         Civil Rule 54.01 defines a "judgment" as "a written order of a court adjudicating a claim or claims in an action or proceeding. A final or appealable judgment is a final order adjudicating all the rights of all the parties in an action or proceeding . . . ." The orders must have conclusively determined the rights of the parties in regard to that particular phase of the proceeding before an appeal can be taken from them. Consequently, we are primarily tasked with determining for the purposes of an appeal whether an adjudication order pursuant to KRS 610.080 finally determines "all the rights of all the parties in an action or proceeding[.]" CR 54.01.

         Upon researching the matter, we cannot locate any published cases on point. The Court has, however, previously determined in several unpublished opinions that disposition is the point of finality. See, e.g., D.K. v. S.M., 2011-CA-002103-ME, 2012 WL 2951444, (Ky. App. July 20, 2012); M.F. v. M.F., 2005-CA-002208-ME, 2006 WL 3751358 (Ky. App. Dec. 22, 2006).[1] This line of cases is persuasive and consistent with orderly appellate procedures pursuant to CR 54.01. Based on the foregoing, the Court holds that a disposition order, not an adjudication order, is the final and appealable order with regard to a decision of whether a child is dependent, neglected, or abused.

         Because these appeals were not taken from a final order, the appeals are clearly interlocutory. There being no final order from which an appeal can be taken in ...


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