Litigants in the custody case of a 5-year-old Chinese girl were back in court Friday, with the plaintiffs attorneys asking for more time to prepare their closing arguments, which were scheduled to begin on Monday, March 22.
Presiding judge Robert Childers granted a three-week extension, allowing lawyers for all parties until April 12 to prepare their statements. However, Childers will hear arguments on pending motions on Monday, as scheduled. Testimony in the case ended on March 2.
During the trial Childers heard testimony from the biological parents, Jack and Casey He, as well as from the custodial parents, Jerry and Louise Baker. At issue is their permanent custody of Anna Mae He, who was voluntarily placed in foster care by the Hes. The Bakers, who have had custody of the child since she was 3 weeks old, say the Hes failed to visit or provide support for their daughter during a four-month period, and should therefore have their parental rights terminated. The Hes say they placed Anna Mae in the Bakers care with the understanding that the agreement was temporary and that they would get her back.
At the end of the trial, both sides had initially agreed that the time allotted for closing arguments was adequate. But Linda Holmes, attorney for the childs guardian, and Larry Parrish, the Bakers attorney, filed a motion for the additional time after more information became available Wednesday. Holmes detailed seven motions pending before the court, including expulsion of testimony by four expert witnesses heard during the case, and reported her request to reopen the case by submitting affidavits of additional information from two of her witnesses.
She said Parrish and guardian Kim Mullins recalled a "no contact" order initiated by the initial judge in the case, D.J. Alissandratos, barring the Hes from interaction with Anna Mae. "There were statements made in the testimony that the order had been drawn up sort of in secret by myself and the judge. But I went back and checked notes made by my paralegal that involve a phone conversation with [all parties, including the Hes attorney] that clearly show that the origin of the order started there."
The Hes, who had previously been accused by Parrish of delaying proceedings in the case, were disappointed with the judges decision. "Today [the plaintiffs attorneys] are trying to find an excuse to avoid responsibility and come up with something to keep us away from our daughter. This is just another trick by them," said Mr. He.
"Our clients are extremely frustrated and this delay only works against them," said the Hes attorney Richard Gordon. As for reopening the case for additional testimony, neither Gordon nor his partner in the case David Siegel, believed anything in the record warranted such an action.
"Weve got too many hours in this to rush to an ending," said Parrish. "No stay [of the case] has been issued. This is just a request for more time."
Along with Holmes pending motions, Siegel and Gordon have additional pending motions for their side, include a motion to dismiss the entire case against their clients. "I was ready to make my closing statements at 8 on the night that the testimony ended," said Siegel.
Lawyers will also be required to complete their conclusion of law and findings of fact summaries a week prior to the April date. Childres has 30 days after closing arguments to rule in the case.