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In re Interest of Justine J.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

July 12, 2013

In re Interest of Justine J. et al., children under 18 years of age.
v.
Shawna R., appellant. State of Nebraska, appellee,

1. Juvenile Courts: Judgments: Appeal and Error. Cases arising under the Nebraska Juvenile Code are reviewed de novo on the record, and an appellate court is required to reach a conclusion independent of the trial court's findings. However, when the evidence is in conflict, the appellate court will consider and give weight to the fact that the lower court observed the witnesses and accepted one version of the facts over the other.

2. Juvenile Courts: Jurisdiction. To obtain jurisdiction over a juvenile at the adjudication stage, the court's only concern is whether the conditions in which the juvenile presently finds himself or herself fit within the asserted subsection of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247 (Reissue 2008).

3. Juvenile Courts: Jurisdiction: Parental Rights. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008) outlines the basis for the juvenile court's jurisdiction and grants exclusive jurisdiction over any juvenile who lacks proper parental care by reason of the fault or habits of his or her parent, guardian, or custodian.

4. Parental Rights. The purpose of the adjudication phase is to protect the interests of the child.

5. Juvenile Courts: Jurisdiction: Proof. The Nebraska Juvenile Code does not require the separate juvenile court to wait until disaster has befallen a minor child before the court may acquire jurisdiction. While the State need not prove that the child has actually suffered physical harm, Nebraska case law is clear that at a minimum, the State must establish that without intervention, there is a definite risk of future harm.

6. Parental Rights: Proof. The State must prove the allegations in a petition for adjudication filed under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008) by a preponderance of the evidence.

Appeal from the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County: Elizabeth Crnkovich, Judge.

[286 Neb. 251] Cassidy V. Chapman and Andrea M. Smith for appellant.

Donald W. Kleine, Douglas County Attorney, Ann C. Miller, and Emily H. Anderson, Senior Certified Law Student, for appellee.

Heavican, C.J., Wright, Connolly, Stephan, McCormack, Miller-Lerman, and Cassel, JJ.

McCormack, J.

NATURE OF CASE

Shawna R. appeals from an order of the juvenile court adjudicating her four children under Neb. Rev. Stat. ยง 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008). Shawna does not challenge the adjudication of her two daughters, Sylissa J. and Justine J. Shawna challenges the juvenile court's adjudication of her two sons, Moses S. and Elijah S., and argues that there was no evidence that the boys were in danger of future harm. We agree and find that there was insufficient evidence adduced by the State to support the adjudication of Moses and Elijah. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of ...


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