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The Division II court of appeals held recently that someone accused of domestic violence in a domestic violence protection order proceeding does not have a right to a trial by jury.

In 2008, the wife/mother, Tiffany Blackmon, filed a petition for a domestic violence protection order on her behalf and on behalf of her seven-year-old son against her estranged husband, Brian Blackmon.

The trial court issued a temporary order of protection and set a date for the return hearing.  The parties then continued the date of the return hearing a number of times and Mr. Blackmon filed a jury demand.

The trial court denied Mr. Blackmon’s jury demand.  The appellate court affirmed.  To reach its holding, the court first established that the right to trial by jury enshrined in the state Constitution was limited to those causes of action for which a jury was available when the Constitution was adopted in 1889.

At that time, a jury was available to hear a cause of action sounding in law, but not in equity.  The distinction between law and equity focuses on the relief sought.  Injunctive relief is equitable.  An injunction is a court order prohibiting a party from engaging in a particular behavior.  Most other kinds of relief sound in law.

The court of appeals then reasoned that a domestic violence protection order – which prohibits a party from having contact with the other party – is injunctive in nature and therefore sounds in equity, and therefore the prohibited party does not have a right to a trial by jury.

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Our state’s Supreme Court recently affirmed that the statutory provision regarding the termination of parental rights means what it says. The state may not terminate parental rights to a child without offering the parent services to correct whatever parental deficiencies may form the basis of the termination petition.
In Welfare of C.S., docket No. 81720-1, DSHS brought termination proceedings against a mother with substance abuse problems. Pursuant to the termination statute, DSHS offered her drug treatment services.
Ultimately, the treatment worked. At the time of trial, the mother had been clean and sober for a year, verified by twice-weekly urinalysis. Nonetheless, DSHS refused to reunite mother and child, asserting that the mother was ill-equipped to handle the child, who had ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and some other issues.
DSHS refused to offer the mother services in how to manage the child, although it did offer such services to the foster parent. The trial court then terminated parental rights and the appellate court affirmed.
The Supremes reversed.

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