Constitutional Problem with the Family Code

There are five opinions from the Supreme Court of Texas this morning.  One (In re S.K.A., et al) is from Tyler.  They’re all one line per curiam opinions.  Here’s the full text:

The petition for review is denied. In denying the petition, we neither approve nor disapprove the holding of the court of appeals regarding the constitutionality of Texas Family Code section 263.405(i).

I’ve posted before about this section of the Family Code.  Parents whose rights have been terminated for child abuse or neglect must do more than what is usually required to file an appeal.   They must file a statement of their grounds for appeal within fifteen days after the trial judge signs the order terminating their parental rights.

The cases denied today challenged the constitutionality of that requirement.

The case I posted about earlier challenged the constitutionality of that requirement as it applies to indigent parents, who can’t get a free record of the proceeding before the trial court until after the fifteen days has already expired.  The earlier post gives more extensive background into this field.  So now that I’ve set it up, here is the link.

What do today’s cases mean?  I take them as a shot across the bow to the Texas Legislature.  And it’s not a subtle one.  I mean, really, five opinions, all the same, they’re the only ones this week, with “we neither approve or disapprove” language that would have been inherent from a plain, one-word denial (which for non-lawyer readers would mean that the Supreme Court “is not satisfied that the opinion of the court of appeals has correctly declared the law in all respects, but determines that [the case] presents no error that requires reversal or that is of such importance to the jurisprudence of the state as to require reversal ….).  

For a while there, it looked like the FLDS cases were going to bring this issue to a head in a very visible way, perhaps forcing the Supreme Court of Texas to decide the issue.  While the heat has been turned down on the FLDS pressure cooker, the Supreme Court has made it clear that they’ve got some questions about the Family Code, and would prefer that the Texas Legislature handle the matter.

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