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Deprivation (Procedural Issues) – Georgia Case Law Update

In the Georgia Court of Appeals finding of deprivation in In the Interest of B.H. (A08A1102) on November 17, 2008, the Court addressed several procedural issues in juvenile court proceedings. First, The Court of Appeals affirmed the juvenile court’s excluding of testimony by the child’s former court-appointed special advocate (CASA). The parents wanted the CASA to testify to dispute the child’s previous allegations. Georgia law defines the CASA role as to advocate for the best interests of the child and protects the CASA/child relationship by keeping information acquired by the CASA confidential. Though confidential information could be disclosed with a court order, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that requiring this CASA to testify would be“inconsistent with the purpose of the CASA program” especially because the parents had multiple other witnesses to impeach the child.

Next, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling limiting the scope of discovery requested by the parents, since the parents had already obtained the requested information in other formats.

In addition, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s requirement that the Father view the child’s testimony from a television monitor in another room. Though there is a constitutional right to confront one’s witnesses, the Court of Appeals addressed the importance of protecting a child witness from trauma and held that, since the Father could view the testimony as it occurred and the court provided a person to run notes from the Father to his attorney, the Father’s constitutional rights were not violated.

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