ENTIRE MOSAIC OF THE CHILD’S LIFE –- A LEGAL PRINCIPLE OR AN EXCUSE TO LET ALL NON-ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE IN?

The pinnacle case that first defined and expounded on the “entire mosaic” of the child life was:  In re. S.K., 564 A.2d 1382 (DC 1989). The case was about excessive physical discipline of a child who had set her bed on fire.  Parents sufficiently outraged had both physically disciplined her, belting the child.   The mitigating factors were that the child had a pre-existing, documented severe psychological issues, with even suicidal ideations.  The parents were aware of that.  The court however found neglect based on a very narrow and isolated set of facts.  The judge focused only on the day and the incident giving rise to the physical discipline – and finding the discipline excessive as the child had marks and bruises – concluded neglect legally justified based on the evidence. In another word, rather than considering the child’s pre-existing mental conditions at the time of physical disciplining and all the surrounding circumstances – the trial Judge simply establish that the belting of the child, isolated from all other elements in play, was sufficient to establish neglect.  Judge Schwelb in a dissenting opinion entitled and empowered the trial judge to have a larger focus and lens when considering basis for finding
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Categories: Family Law.

HEARSAY EXCEPTION FOR THE PURPOSE OF MEDICAL TREATMENT:

The recent Court of Appeals decision in IN RE. M.F. (No. 08-FS-733, Sept. 27, 2012), highlights how the litigation errors made at the trial level can tip the balance on the appeal. At issue, in part, was statements admitted by MF Fentress into record as admissible under the hearsay exception: statement made during medical diagnosis.  The evidence of abuse and neglect at trial was primarily elicited through the testimonies of a therapist, a treating medical professional and the social worker.  The bulk of testimony and evidence was the child’s account of events to these individual who all testified.  The litigants at trial all objected to the hearsay testimony of the therapist accounting what the child had told him, however, never they objected to the hearsay testimonies of the treating medical professional as well as the social worker. The Court of Appeals held flatly that the hearsay testimony of the therapist, in fact, was not admissible under the medical treatment exception as the trial MJ had held.  The Court cites the ruling in In re C.A.S., 828 A.2d 184, 190-191 (D.C. 2003), which held that the children’s statements made to the therapist were inadmissible hearsay as the interview held with the
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Categories: Family Law.