RAP 18.13A - Accelerated Review of Juvenile Dependency Disposition Orders and Orders Terminating Parental RightsComments for RAP 18.13A must be received no later than July 7, 2008.
Suggested New Rule
Accelerated Review of Juvenile Dependency Disposition Orders and Orders Terminating Parental Rights
Submitted by the Board of Governors of the Washington State Bar Association
Purpose: As long as appeals from juvenile dependency disposition orders and orders terminating parental rights are pending, adoptions cannot be finalized and children are not able to become part of new families. The purpose of this new rule is to further accelerate review of these orders to promote permanency for children awaiting adoption.
This rule is proposed by the Task Force on Dependency and Termination Appeals for the Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care. Participants on the Task Force include Hon. Anne Ellington of Division I of the Courts of Appeals, commissioners from each of the three divisions of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, an appellate court clerk, a Superior Court clerk, two representatives of the Office of the Attorney General, two appellate defenders, and a representative from the state Office of Public Defense.
The rule’s genesis is a report by the National Center for State Courts, Expediting Dependency Appeals: Strategies to Reduce Delay, which encourages states to involve stakeholders in the process of developing strategies that apply to their particular jurisdictions. At the direction of the Task Force, a law student interviewed stakeholders throughout Washington to learn about the problems they encounter attempting to prepare appeals from juvenile dependency disposition orders and orders terminating parental rights, and to solicit their ideas for improving the accelerated review rule. The Task Force heard from trial counsel for parents and the Department of Social and Health Services, court reporters, transcriptionists, and Superior Court clerks from a variety of urban and rural counties.
Based on this input and the collective experience of Task Force members, the Task Force focused its attention on inefficiencies and delays inherent in the transfer of cases from the trial court system to the appellate court. Under the current rules, perfection of an appeal does not begin until the appellate court appoints appellate counsel. Although some other jurisdictions have adopted rules providing for abbreviated briefs and briefing schedules, the Task Force questioned the wisdom and fairness of that approach and chose instead to reduce the inefficiency and delay.
The Task Force’s goal was to speed the resolution of these cases without diminishing the opportunity of the parties to be heard or the ability of the appellate court to make sound decisions. In pursuit of this goal, the Task Force employed three principles: (1) simplify perfection of the appeal and start the process more quickly; (2) appoint appellate counsel more quickly; (3) balance the goal of expediting preparation of these appeals with the reality that there are practical, political, and financial considerations that shape the rules of appellate procedure as they currently exist. Cost is a significant consideration. The Office of Public Defense, which pays for appellate counsel and preparation of the record, demonstrated a true commitment to expediting dependency and termination appeals through its willingness to be flexible regarding payment for preparation of the record and early appointment of counsel.
Suggested new Rule of Appellate Procedure (RAP) 18.13A is tailored to appeals from juvenile dependency disposition orders and orders terminating parental rights. In brief, the suggested rule requires trial counsel to order the verbatim report of proceedings and designate the clerk’s papers at the time the notice of appeal is filed, rather than waiting for the appointment of appellate counsel. To simplify and speed the designation process, the suggested rule requires all documents in the court file to be transmitted to the appellate court, with copies provided to appellate counsel to save them the time of copying the documents themselves. To offset that cost, the suggested rule provides that only one set of clerk’s papers will be transmitted to the appellate court, rather than one for each child as is the current practice.1 The suggested rule provides for the notice of appeal to be served on the appellate court as a safeguard to prevent cases from falling between the cracks. Contemporaneous filing of any order of indigency will allow appellate counsel to be appointed more quickly. The suggested rule codifies the existing accelerated briefing schedules already in use in all three divisions of the Court of Appeals. The suggested rule informs the Superior Court clerks, court reporters, and transcriptionists that these appeals are to be given priority.
In conjunction with suggested new RAP 18.13A, the Task Force is also proposing the following:
Please refer to the separate GR 9 cover sheet for more details on each of these three concomitant proposals.
1 Individual dependency petitions and petitions to terminate parental rights are filed in the trial court for each child, and each child’s case is given a case number. Under current RAP 18.13, the documents in each file must be separately designated and transmitted, even though they are substantially identical. Under suggested new RAP 18.13A, only the documents filed in the lowest case number would be transmitted to the appellate court, but the Office of Public Defense has agreed to pay for copies of the clerk’s papers to be provided to appellate counsel so they no longer have to arrange to have the documents copied themselves.