Missing Trial Court Order Sinks Parent’s Appeal Of Parental Termination Ruling

Gina Hampton appealed a ruling that terminated her parental rights to her 11-year old child. Hampton wanted an independent opinion after a court-appointed psychologist diagnosed the child with reactive attachment disorder. Among her arguments on appeal was a claim of trial court error by denying her request for an independent medical examination of her child.

The record on appeal contained Hampton’s motion for the independent exam, but not a resulting court order. The Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court rejected Hampton’s argument of error by the trial court because there was no way to establish from the record how, if at all, the trial court ruled. Hampton thus failed her obligation to provide a complete record from which the appellate court could review the trial court’s action. Here’s how the appellate court explained it:

“To determine whether a claimed error occurred, a court of review must have before it a record of the proceedings below.” … “The appellant [Hampton] bears the burden to present a sufficiently complete record, and this court will resolve any doubts that arise from an incomplete record against the appellant.” … Further, “[a] movant [Hampton] has the responsibility to obtain a ruling from the court on his motion to avoid waiver on appeal.” …

“Here, the record does not contain a ruling by the trial court on respondent’s [Hampton] motion. It is unclear whether the record is simply incomplete, in that the court ruled on the motion but the ruling is absent, or whether respondent failed in her duty to bring her motion to the court’s attention and no ruling was ever obtained. In either event, we find the court committed no error.”

Get the whole case, In re M.R., No. 4-09-0110 (7/20/09), by clicking here.