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RINKER APPEAL. (11/16/55)

November 16, 1955

RINKER APPEAL.


Appeal, No. 283, Oct. T., 1955, from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Huntingdon County, sitting as a juvenile court, dated June 22, 1955, in re Terry Rinker et al., alleged dependent and neglected minors. Record returned to court below.

COUNSEL

Richard W. Linton, for appellant.

R. Merle Heffner, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Ross, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, and Ervin, JJ.

Author: Woodside

[ 180 Pa. Super. Page 145]

OPINION BY WOODSIDE, J.

This is an appeal from the order of the Court of Quarter Sessions of Huntingdon County sitting as a Juvenile Court in which it declared the appellant's three children neglected, and directed them committed to the care and custody of the Huntingdon County Child Welfare Services.

The mother, who has taken this appeal, questions the sufficiency of the evidence to warrant the action of the court.

A petition to have the children declared "neglected" was filed in the Juvenile Court by a child welfare worker. The court ordered that the case be heard January

[ 180 Pa. Super. Page 14619]

, 1955 at which time the testimony of a number of witnesses was taken. After the hearing the learned Judge "determined" that the best interests of the children required their care, guidance and control and committed them to the care and custody of the Welfare Services.

As provided in section 15 of the Juvenile Court Law of June 2, 1933, P.L. 1433, 11 PS § 257, upon petition of the mother the court granted a review and rehearing. At the rehearing the court admitted the testimony taken at the previous hearing and heard additional witnesses.

There was no error in this procedure. Weintraub Appeal, 166 Pa. Superior Ct. 342, 71 A.2d 823 (1950).

The procedure provided by the above section of the Juvenile Court Law for a rehearing is unusual, but its purpose is evident. To avoid the atmosphere and the formality of a courtroom the legislature established a separate court and procedure to deal with children. The informality of the procedure has much to do with its value, and this informality is generally followed by juvenile court judges and is encouraged both by the legislature and the appellate courts. This informality, however, makes it impossible to present to an appellate court a record that can be intelligently reviewed.

In order to provide a proper record for review when appeals are taken the legislature provided for the "review and rehearing" which the lower court must grant when requested within 21 days of the final order and which requires that the testimony be taken down and transcribed by an official court stenographer. The final order from which an appeal may be taken to this Court is based upon the record made at the rehearing.

In the instant case the mother was present at the first hearing; she was represented by counsel who examined and cross-examined witnesses; an official court

[ 180 Pa. Super. Page 147]

    stenographer took down and transcribed the testimony. Under these circumstances it was proper to admit the transcript of this testimony into evidence at the rehearing as a part of the record of the rehearing. Weintraub Appeal, supra. Both the petitioner, who was represented by the District Attorney, and the mother of the alleged neglected children had a right to offer additional testimony at the rehearing. Both did.

On the basis of the evidence thus submitted the court made certain findings of fact upon which it based its final order of June 22, 1955. The court found that the children were neglected, and that the mother neglected to provide the proper care necessary for the morals and well being of the children and it ordered them committed to the care and custody of the welfare agency. We are of the opinion that the evidence did not warrant this action.

Section 1 of the Juvenile Court Law, supra, 11 PS § 243, provides, inter alia, as follows:

"(5) the words "neglected child" include:

"(b) A child who lacks proper parental care by reason of the fault or habits of his or her parent, guardian, custodian or legal representative;

"(c) A child whose parent, guardian, custodian or legal representative neglects or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care, or other care necessary for his or her health, morals or well-being;"

The family is an institution which preceded governments. Its sanctity was universally recognized before judges or statutes or constitutions or welfare organizations were known to man. The right of a child to a mother and a mother to a child are ...


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