Yet another decision by Philadelphia Family Court Judge Lyris Younge has been overturned on appeal, this time for hastily deciding to break up a family and disallowing a lawyer representing children to argue their case.
This decision by the state Superior Court highlights the latest in a growing list of due process violations committed by Younge against families in her courtroom. The Superior Court’s ruling June 8 is the second such reversal in a short time since an investigation by The Legal into her history was published in April.
Younge has not been on the bench for nearly a month, and is currently listed as “out” on the Family Court’s judicial schedule. She is under investigation by the state Judicial Conduct Board, her lawyer previously confirmed.
This most recent case involves issues related to a mother’s use of marijuana and allegations of truancy that has been in the court system for more than two years—ultimately resulting in Younge’s decision to remove the children from their mother’s care. In the appellate decision, Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin called out Younge for interrupting the children’s lawyer and repeatedly noting the time at an August 2017 hearing.
“Here, the trial court violated children’s due process rights,” McLaughlin said. “The trial court repeatedly interrupted the child advocate during her cross-examination of [the Department of Human Services'] sole witness and never provided an opportunity for children to complete the cross-examination or to present their evidence. Although mother spoke at the hearing, she was not questioned by counsel.”
McLaughlin continued, “In addition, the trial court often interrupted both mother and the child advocate when they were attempting to provide the court with information. Further, the trial court frequently referenced the late hour, and, from the start of the hearing, concluded that removal would be necessary because the case had been open for 27 months.”
The children’s lawyer, Colleen Swim of the Support Center for Child Advocates, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. West Chester-based ethics attorney Samuel Stretton, whom Younge hired to represent her after the first Legal story, did not return a call seeking comment.
In an earlier reversal of Younge from early May, the Superior Court said Younge “did everything in her power” to remove an infant from her parents with almost total disregard for their rights, adding that the she was either negligent or trying to tear a family apart on purpose.
Younge did this, the appeals court said, by keeping a five-month-old baby girl in foster care—instead of allowing her to live with her grandmother while the case went on—as a way to make the parents confess to alleged abuse.
In that reversal, Superior Court Judge Anne E. Lazarus said, “The fact that a trial judge tells parents that unless one of them ‘cops to an admission of what happened to the child’ they are going to lose their child, flies in the face of not only the [child protection laws] but of the entire body of case law with regard to best interests of the child and family reunification.”