In re interest of Simon H.

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In re interest of Simon H.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Tuesday, March 16, 1999

SUMMARY: Order of contempt requiring DHHS to pay $1,000 fine for filing case plan and court report one day late was invalid.

A petition was filed 1/21/98 as to Simon H.; Simon was adjudicated on 5/13/98. At the adjudication hearing, the court asked the caseworker for the Department of Health and Human Services if the Department could prepare the case plan and court report within 45 days, and the caseworker confirmed that was possible. The court issued a written order on 5/14/98 ordering DHHS to conduct a home study of the parents. At the disposition hearing on 6/22/98, the caseworkers discussed the home studies conducted but did not file a case plan and court report. The court issued an order of contempt requiring HHS to pay $1,000 fee for every day that the case plan and court report was not filed. HHS filed the report the next day, and the court issued an order fining HHS $1,000.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decisions and remanded with instructions to vacate the orders. First, the Court of Appeals noted that the written order of 5/14/98 only ordered HHS to conduct a home study, so HHS did not violate the order by not filing a case plan and court report. The oral request for a case plan and court report did not take the place of the written order. Additionally, HHS did not have notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to the finding of contempt.