In re Interest of J.D.M.

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In re Interest of J.D.M.

Caselaw No.
No. 87-1007; 230 Neb. 273, 430 N.W.2d 689
Filed on
Friday, October 28, 1988

Summary: Evidence that M.M., the father, suffers from a personality disorder characterized by impulsivity and violent outbursts, that he is not amenable to treatment, and that the disorder resulted in abuse of an older child is enough to conclude he suffers from a mental illness or deficit and that termination is in the best interest of the child. 

At the time of J.D.M.’s birth on October 17, 1986 both of his parents were incarcerated due to convictions of felony child abuse. The charges arose out of abuse of their older son, E.M. The abuse against E.M., which occurred before the child was 2 months, included being choked, spanked, violent shaken and spun, whipped with a belt, and thrown against a wall in attempts to get him to stop crying. The abuse resulted in an intercranial hemorrage, skull fracture, a fracture to the left clavicle, ad a left distal femoral fracture. The child is likely to be completely blind in one eye and mostly blind in the other. Additionally, he was noted to be suffering symptoms of severe mental retardation 2 months prior to the termination. The mother, V.M., voluntarily terminated her rights to J.D.M. The county court of York County dismissed the State’s petition for termination of the father’s right because the father’s personality disorder did not constitute a mental illness or deficiency based on expert testimony as to the meaning of the terms in the psychology community. The expert further testified that M.M. was diagnosed with a personality characterized by violent outbursts in response to stressors the average person would not respond to violently. Further, that, considering his intelligence and motivation, M.M. was not amenable to treatment within 5 years. The State appealed the dismissal.

The Supreme Court of Nebraska reversed the lower court’s decision. The Court, relying on precedent from Nebraska and New Hampshire, found that the legislature did not intend for a personality disorder characterized by impulsive and violent outburst, resulting in permanent injuries to a child, to fall outside the child protection statute. The Court held that M.M’s personality disorder was within the definition of mental deficiency as the term was used in the child protection statute. Additionally, the Court held that they were not required to wait for M.M. to have unsupervised visits resulting in serious, permanent injury to a second child due to his anger and impulsivity for his rights to be terminated.