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In re Bradley

Filed: June 1, 1982.

IN THE MATTER OF: JOHN ROBERT BRADLEY, JOSEPH CHARLES BRADLEY


Appeal by respondent from Fowler, Judge. Order entered 25 June 1981 in District Court, Buncombe County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 8 April 1982.

Hedrick, Judge. Judge Hill concurs. Judge Becton dissents.

Hedrick

In his first two arguments for reversal, respondent contends that G.S. § 7A-289.32(4) violates the due process clause of the United States Constitution in that it invades "constitutionally protected parental rights by means which are not the 'least drastic'" and in that it "is overbroad." These two assignments of error are purportedly based on Exception 9, which is to the conclusion of law

[t]hat grounds for termination of the parental rights of Respondent Bradley are found to exist under General Statute Section 7A-289.32(4), in that Respondent failed to pay any portion of the cost of care of the minor children since June, 1979, a continuous period of approximately eighteen (18) months next preceding the filing of the Petition; and Respondent's failure to contribute to the cost of care of the minor children is not reasonable under the circumstances in that Respondent [who is a convict in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Correction] would have had the opportunity to provide financial support to the children through participation in the work-release program had he not lost this privilege due to his own misconduct,

and Exception 11, which is to the judgment. These exceptions do not raise the constitutionality of the statute. Insofar as this record is concerned, the trial judge did not rule on the constitutionality of G.S. § 7A-289.32(4); thus, this court will not rule on its constitutionality. See State ex rel. Commissioner of Insurance v. North Carolina Rate Bureau, 300 N.C. 381, 269 S.E.2d 547 (1980). However, see In re Clark, 303 N.C. 592, 605, 281 S.E.2d 47, 56 (1981), where our Supreme Court found "no constitutional defect for vagueness in G.S. 7A-289.32(4)."

By Assignment of Error Number 6, based on Exception Number 6, respondent contends that the court erred in admitting into evidence respondent's prison records. "It has long been the law in this State that original official records are admissible into evidence when properly authenticated, for purposes of proof of matters relevant to the information contained in the official record." State v. Joyner, 295 N.C. 55, 62, 243 S.E.2d 367, 372 (1978). Copies of official writings, recorded or filed as records in a public office, are as competent evidence as the original when certified

by the keeper of such writing under the seal of his office when there is such seal, or under his hand when there is no seal, unless the court shall order the production of the original. G.S. § 8-34. The record challenged in the present case was an authenticated copy of a Department of Correction document reclassifying respondent's status as a prisoner and disclosing that respondent had been removed from the work release program for having returned therefrom in a highly intoxicated condition. This evidence was a relevant and properly certified copy of an official record and was admissible. The assignment of error is without merit.

In his last assignment of error, respondent argues that "[t]he Court erred in concluding that Respondent Bradley failed to provide any reasonable support while he was incarcerated, in that it is unreasonable to require a prisoner to provide financial support while he is in the custody of the Department of Corrections."

G.S. § 7A-289.32(4) provides the following as a ground upon which parental rights may be terminated:

The child has been placed in the custody of a county department of social services, a licensed child-placing agency, or a child-caring institution, and the parent, for a continuous period of six months next preceding the filing of the petition, has failed to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of care for the child.

The court made unchallenged findings of fact that the minor children had been in the custody of the Buncombe County Department of Social Services since July 1974, that respondent had failed to pay any portion of the cost of care for the minor children since June 1979, and "[t]hat while incarcerated in the North Carolina Prison System, Respondent had the opportunity to participate in the work-release program but was removed from the program due to his violation of prison regulations, viz. returning from the work-release program in an intoxicated condition." The inquiry, therefore, is whether these findings of fact support the court's conclusion that respondent failed to pay a reasonable portion of the costs of care of the minor children.

In determining what is a "reasonable portion," the parent's ability to pay is the controlling ...


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