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In re D.R.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 26, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF: D.R., A MINOR APPEAL OF: D.R. AND J.R. IN THE INTEREST OF: A.R., A MINOR APPEAL OF: D.R. AND J.R. IN THE INTEREST OF: G.R., A MINOR APPEAL OF: D.R. AND J.R. IN THE INTEREST OF: R.R., A MINOR APPEAL OF: D.R. AND J.R. IN THE INTEREST OF: C.R., A MINOR APPEAL OF: D.R. AND J.R.

          Appeal from the Order Entered February 1, 2019 In the Court of Common Pleas of Greene County Criminal Division at No(s): 6 JM 2018, 7 JM 2018, 8 JM 2018, 9 JM 2018, 10 JM 2018

          BEFORE: OTT, J., KUNSELMAN, J., and MUSMANNO, J.

          OPINION

          KUNSELMAN, J.

         D.R. (Father) and J.R. (Mother) appeal the court's order compelling their cooperation with Fayette County Children and Youth Services Agency (Fayette CYS) to submit to a home inspection, as well as for Father to take a drug test, pursuant to the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6301, et seq., and corresponding regulations. The parents argue, [1] inter alia, that the order violated their state and federal constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. After careful consideration, we agree and vacate the trial court's order.

         The pertinent history discloses the following:

         In January 2019, Fayette CYS presented a "motion to compel cooperation with [General Protective Services] assessment" before the Greene County Court of Common Pleas.[2] Fayette CYS averred that it received three separate reports of Father being under the influence of an unknown substance. In one of those instances, Father was accompanied by one of his five children. In the third report, an allegation was made that Father abused Mother, but that criminal charges were dismissed because she refused to testify. Fayette CYS interviewed all the children and sought judicial records of the purported domestic violence. The agency could not corroborate the allegations. Fayette CYS requested that the parents submit to a home inspection and that Father submit to a drug test. The parents refused.

         The parents objected to the motion to compel, arguing that Fayette CYS should have filed a verified petition. They also alleged that they lacked notice and an opportunity to be heard. The parents' contended further that the judge assigned to his case should recuse, because Father had active cases before the court. The court set the matter for a hearing ten days later, but denied the parents' request to recuse. After a hearing, the court ordered the parents to comply with the home inspection and ordered Father to submit to a drug test via an observable urine screen.[3] The court furthered ordered the parents to "cooperate" with Fayette CYS and threatened sanctions if they did not. The parents filed this timely appeal. They raised ten issues:

1. Did the court err by entertaining [Fayette CYS]'s unverified motion to compel when no abuse or neglect had been alleged when the law requires the agency to file a verified petition when requesting court action on abuse allegations?
2. Did the court err by granting [Fayette CYS]'s motion when the motion was not presented to the court or served on [the parents] more than 60 days after the allegations or reports were made?
3. Did the court err by finding that the allegations against [the parents] amounted to actual reports of child abuse and that probable cause existed to enter the home when the agency freely admitted no abuse was alleged?
4. Did the court err in refusing to apply the "probable cause" standard to [Fayette CYS]'s motion and thereafter finding that [Fayette CYS]'s request was not of the same standard as a search warrant?
5. Does [Fayette CYS]'s motion and the court's order for entry into the home, the body and compliance with [Fayette CYS] amount to an illegal search and seizure under the state and federal constitutions?
6. Did the court err and/or violate appellant Mother's constitutional rights by issuing an order against her when no allegations were made against Mother?
7. Did the court violate [the parents'] constitutional rights by issuing an order against [the parents] for sanctions if they did not comply with said order?
8. Does the CPSL allow for urine drug testing of private citizens and if so does observable urine testing violate the [Father's] constitutional rights?
9. Did the court err denying the motion to recuse itself and the motion to remove the case from the jurisdiction?
10. Did the court err prohibiting [Father] from asking if he reporting sources were [CYS] employees when the CPSL mandates CPSL reports from employees must be made within 24 hours of the alleged incident?

         Parents' Brief at 12-14 (excess capitalization omitted).

         First, we briefly address the issue of mootness. At oral argument, Father indicated that the parents had not complied with the court's order to cooperate with Fayette CYS. From what we can discern, the trial court has not enforced its order while the matter was on appeal. See Pa.R.A.P. 1701(b)(2). Regardless of whether the parents complied with the order, however, we conclude that the matter would still be properly before us. In In re Petition to Compel Cooperation with Child Abuse Investigation, a near carbon copy of the instant matter and one we discuss in great detail infra, we explained that these same issues were clearly capable of repetition while evading appellate review. 875 A.2d 365, 370 (Pa. Super. 2005). We may properly review the instant case.

         Next, we must determine whether the parents' issues are preserved for our review. Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly held that an appellant waives all matters for review where he identifies an outrageous number of issues in the concise statement. See Jones v. Jones, 878 A.2d 86 (Pa. Super. 2005) (holding that a seven-page, twenty-nine issue statement resulted in waiver). This Court may also find waiver where a concise statement is too vague. See In re A.B., 63 A.3d 345, 350 (Pa. Super. 2013) ("When a court has to guess what issues an appellant is appealing, that is not enough for meaningful review.") (citation omitted).

         Here, the parents were obligated to file a concise statement of errors, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2). Although Rule 1925(b) dictates that the number of issues raised in a concise statement will not be grounds for finding waiver, this principle applies only "[w]here non-redundant, non-frivolous issues are set forth in an appropriately concise manner[.]" Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b)(4)(iv); see also Kanter v. Epstein, 866 A.2d 394, 401 (Pa. Super. 2004) (holding that by "raising an outrageous number of issues" in a Rule 1925 statement, an appellant impedes the trial court's ability to prepare an opinion addressing the issues on appeal, thereby effectively precluding appellate review).

         In their concise statement, the parents listed 25 numbered paragraphs alleging various improprieties. The trial court, impeded by the deluge or perhaps cognizant of our dim view of rambling concise statements, chose not to discuss the enumerated errors individually. Instead, the court reviewed the transcript and articulated generally the reasons for its decision.

         Based on our review, we conclude that Father has preserved four primary issues:

A. Whether the trial court erred in denying the parents' ...

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