Opinions from the South Carolina Court of Appeals

Court of Appeals

Today, the Court published one opinion.

In State v. Mazique, Appellant appealed his conviction for armed robbery arguing that the trial court erred in multiple decisions involving improper handling of his request for substitute counsel and evidentiary matters, all of which had the cumulative effect of preventing a fair trial.

The Court reviewed the trial court’s decisions and found no abuse of discretion and no issue(s) that prevented Appellant from having a fair trial. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decisions of the trial court.

On October 10th, the Court published SCDSS v. Ngoc Tran.

Ngoc Tran, a Georgia resident, appealed an order terminating her parental rights to her minor child. Tran argued the South Carolina family court did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and erred in finding clear and convincing evidence to support statutory grounds for termination of parental rights (TPR).

Mother and child  moved from Pennsylvania, where husband resided, to Georgia to escape domestic violence. At the time, Mother and child lived in Georgia for a three year period. While traveling through South Carolina, Mother was found sitting in the middle of the road with Child. Mother was  hospitalized due to not being very responsive and DSS was contacted. Three days later, the family court held a hearing and determined that probable cause existed to remove Child to DSS custody pending further orders.   Later on, the family court found that Mother had placed Child in unreasonable risk to harm and granted DSS custody of child. Mother was not present at either hearing. Mother moved for reconsideration, arguing that this state did not have proper jurisdiction over the child due to pending litigation in Pennsylvania.  The court denied Mother’s motion for reconsideration holding that the case in Pennsylvania was not relevant to the issue of termination of parental rights [TPR] in this case, therefore jurisdiction regarding the custody of Child was vested in the State of South Carolina. This appeal followed.

This Court examined the issue of jurisdiction through the UCCJEA and found that DSS did not meet its burden to establish whether South Carolina had jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Accordingly, the Court vacates the family court’s removal order and TPR order and remands the case back to family court to resolve the jurisdictional issue.

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