Heard in the Court of Appeals: February 17, 2015.
Office of the Wake County Attorney, by Roger A. Askew and Claire A. Hunter, for petitioner-appellee Wake County Human Services.
W. Michael Spivey for respondent-appellant father.
Poyner Spruill LLP, by Shannon E. Hoff, for guardian ad litem.
BRYANT, Judge. Judges CALABRIA and DIETZ Dietz concur.
Appeal by respondent-father from order entered 7 May 2014 by Judge Monica Bousman in Wake County District Court,
No. 12 JT 136.
Because we are bound by In re Appeal from Civil Penalty, 324 N.C. 373, 384, 379 S.E.2d 30, 37 (1989) ( " Where a panel of the Court of Appeals has decided the same issue, albeit in a different case, a subsequent panel of the same court is bound by that precedent, unless it has been overturned by a higher court." ), to acknowledge that on the facts of this case, this issue of subject matter jurisdiction is controlled by Fansler v. Honeycutt, 221 N.C.App. 226, 728 S.E.2d 6 (2012), we are compelled to vacate the trial court's orders in this matter for lack of jurisdiction.
Respondent father appeals from an order terminating his parental rights to his minor child, N.T. (" Ned" ). Because the trial court never gained subject matter jurisdiction over the underlying juvenile case, and thus, petitioner Wake County Human Services (" WCHS" ) never obtained lawful custody of Ned, we vacate the trial court's order terminating parental rights.
On 22 May 2012, WCHS filed a juvenile petition alleging Ned was a neglected juvenile, having obtained non-secure custody of Ned the previous day. By order entered 11 July 2012, the trial court concluded Ned was a neglected juvenile and continued custody of Ned with WCHS. WCHS worked to reunify Ned with his parents, but on 19 April 2013, the trial court entered an order ceasing reunification efforts and changing the
permanent plan for Ned to adoption. On 24 September 2013, WCHS filed a motion to terminate parental rights to Ned, alleging grounds of neglect, failure to make reasonable progress to correct the conditions that led to Ned's removal from his home, and failure to pay a reasonable portion for Ned's cost of care while he was placed outside of the home. After a four-day hearing on the motion, the trial court entered an order on 7 May 2014 terminating the parental rights of both respondent and Ned's mother. Respondent filed timely notice of appeal.
Respondent's sole argument on appeal is that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the termination proceeding. Respondent contends that because the 22 May 2012 juvenile petition was not properly verified, it did not confer subject matter jurisdiction over the underlying juvenile case to the trial court, and the trial court's orders in the juvenile case are thus void ab initio. Respondent argues that because the court's orders are void, WCHS was never given lawful custody of Ned and, thus, was without ...