South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Pennsylvania Courts adopt rules to fast track appeals of children


January 20, 2009

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has adopted a comprehensive set of rules changes to expedite children's cases involving dependency, custody, adoption, termination of parental rights and paternity.

The changes will move children's appeals faster as they go from county trial courts to review in the Superior Court and the Supreme Court. The order issued today takes effect in 60 days, and is the culmination of months of work by a specially designated subcommittee of the Supreme Court's Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee (ACPRC).

Among the children the proposal is intended to help are victims of abuse or neglect who've been removed from their parents under court order and are living in foster care or in other temporary homes. The changes also impact children awaiting adoption while legal disputes play out over parental rights. Still other children are at the center of custody battles between litigious parents.

“These changes underscore a collaborative and ongoing effort to assist the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in maintaining a justice system in which citizens have confidence. Confidence comes when the justice system treats all who use it in a fair and efficient manner,” said Superior Court Judge Maureen E. Lally-Green who co-chaired the ACPRC subcommittee along with Frederick Frank, Esq.

“The new procedures are designed to eliminate unnecessary delay in the appellate process. The goal in all of these cases is to provide stability and safety for Pennsylvania's children. Eliminating periods of unnecessary delay in the appellate process promotes that goal.”

Under the new rules, all fast track cases would be identified with the notation “Children's Fast Track” in red ink to ensure that these cases are not overlooked in docketing or in the filing process. The Superior Court and the Supreme Court would be given special notice of fast track appeals.

The Children's Fast Track cases will be subject to compressed filing deadlines from the first notice that a trial judge's ruling is to be appealed and at each step of the appeals process thereafter. A separate but related effort is under way to accelerate the process of transcribing the records of lower court proceedings.

The effort to expedite the appellate process is supported by the Office of Children and Families in the Courts which was formed within the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts in 2006 by Supreme Court assignment of Supreme Court Justice Max Baer — court liaison to the group. The mission of the Office of Children and Families in the Courts is to achieve more rapid placement of abused and neglected children in permanent homes. There are about 20,000 such children in the commonwealth.

The court order and new rules can be found on the Web site of Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System at www.


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