Oral Argument on G.O v. DCF: Can General Magistrates Hear Manifest Best Interests Hearings?

Court: Florida Third District Court of Appeal

Judges: Suarez, Cortinas, Emas

Attorneys: Kevin Colbert for the Mother; Karla Perkins for DCF; Hillary Kambour for GALP (joining DCF)

Issues: whether a general magistrate has authority to hear manifest best interests testimony; whether it is error to enter a TPR final judgment on a GM recommended order without waiting 10 days; whether lack of service of the recommended order on the mother’s attorney was error.

Summary: Since DCF and GALP conceded error on the above issues, the only question is whether the Third will order the Department to personally serve the mother again and start the whole process over at advisory. Mr. Colbert was unable to waive the advisory on behalf of his client at the OA.

Analysis: Based on the push to have Mr. Colbert waive the advisory, there is some indication that the Court believes it will have to be redone. The Court would, however, have to locate the procedural error all the way back at the beginning of the process, which started with the GM holding an advisory hearing at which a parent did not show up. To my understanding, the error seems to have occurred when the GM heard MBI testimony, not at the initial default. There seemed to be no interest in preventing GMs from hearing advisory hearings altogether. Therefore, my tentative prediction is a reversal for a new MBI hearing only, with the default preserved and room to file exceptions or a motion to vacate.

One Reply to “Oral Argument on G.O v. DCF: Can General Magistrates Hear Manifest Best Interests Hearings?”

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