Posted by: Andy Taylor | April 30, 2019

You’ve Got To Name It To Claim It: Barton v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

In Barton v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 2019 Ark. App. 239, the Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed a circuit court’s termination of a mother’s parental rights to her three children. In doing so, the Court of Appeals gave an example of just how specific they expect objections to be at trial.

One of the pieces of evidence used against the mother in Barton was a psychological evaluation that recommended that the mother could not care for the children by herself. In the order terminating parental rights, the circuit court specifically stated that it had relied, at least in part, on the psychological evaluation.

On appeal, the mother argued that the psychological evaluation was inadmissible hearsay. The mother’s attorney had objected at trial, stating: “I will object unless the psychologist testifies,” and “[I]t’s my position that the psychologist needs to be here to testify.” Nevertheless, the Arkansas Court of Appeals refused to address the issue.

In refusing the address the issue, the Court of Appeals held that this objection was “vague.” Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that this objection could have been a hearsay objection, but it also could have been an authentication objection or a right-to-cross-examine objection.

This case shows the importance of being as specific as possible when raising objections. In fact, it is quite possible that this is one of those instances where everyone in the courtroom knew and understood what the objection was about, but it’s just not reflected in the record. Because Arkansas appellate courts are often very strict about objections, we always urge extreme caution when trying to preserve an objection for appeal.


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