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In re Adoption of C.M.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District

April 7, 2008

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF C.M.H., ANTHONY C. PRYOR, Respondent-Appellant.

Anthony C. Pryor, pro se, Ross Correctional Institution, Ohio, for Respondent-Appellant.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

Matthew W. McFarland, Judge.

{¶1} Respondent-Appellant, Anthony C. Pryor, appeals from the decision of the Hocking County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, denying his motion to withdraw consent to adoption. Appellant contends the trial court erred by 1) not continuing the adoption hearing due to other pending actions; 2) not allowing him to be physically present during the final stage of the adoption hearing; 3) being biased and prejudiced and, thus, denying him a fair trial; 4) not allowing him to be physically present, as required, when he gave consent to the adoption because the petitioner was not a step-parent; 5) not notifying him, in advance, of the date of the hearing to determine the best interest of the child; 6) refusing to allow him to withdraw consent to adoption when his consent was under fraud, duress, undue influence and not freely, knowingly and voluntarily given; 7) determining the adoption was in the best interest of the child, and; 8) considering and submitting certain, disputed documentary evidence.

{¶2} After our review of the record below, we find none of Appellant's assignments of error are well-taken. Appellant failed to provide transcripts of multiple hearings or an alternate statement of the proceedings under App.R. 9(C). Accordingly, we must presume the regularity of the proceedings and the validity of the trial court's judgments regarding Appellant's first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth assignments of error. As such, each of those assignments of error are overruled. Because Appellant's allegations of bias and prejudice by the trial court is not properly before this court, we overrule his third assignment of error. Finally, because Appellant's appearance by phone, at the consent to adoption hearing, substantially met the requirements of R.C. 3107.081(A), we overrule his fourth assignment of error. Accordingly, we overrule each of Appellant's assignments of error and affirm the decision of the trial court.

I. Facts

{¶3} Appellant and Gloria Kay Pryor are the biological parents of C.M.H., a minor child. An agreed entry filed in October of 2001, signed by Appellant, granted custody of C.M.H to Katha Harper ("Harper"), the maternal grandmother. Appellant testified that he voluntarily relinquished custody. At the time Harper took custody, C.M.H was thirteen months old. Appellant has had no physical contact with C.M.H. since that time.

{¶4} In October of 2002, Appellant was sentenced to four counts of complicity to rape, two counts of rape, one count of kidnapping, and one count of abduction, in incidents involving his step-children. As a result, he was sentenced to three consecutive life terms, classified as a sexual predator, and incarcerated in the Ross County Correctional Institution.

{¶5} In June of 2004, Harper filed a petition in the Hocking County Court of Common Pleas to adopt C.M.H. Harper's petition stated, as grounds for not requiring Appellant's consent to the adoption, that "[Appellant] and Gloria Pryor were incarcerated for gross sexual imposition to their children in 2002. They have had no contact with the child and court ordered [sic] to have no contact with [C.M.H.] until he is eighteen (18) years old." The adoption petition was subsequently amended to state that Appellant's consent to adoption was not required because he had not communicated with, or provided support to, C.M.H. C.M.H.'s mother, Gloria Pryor, gave her written consent to the adoption by Harper.

{¶6} In September of 2004, Harper presented a birthday card, sent by Appellant to C.M.H., to Fairfield County prosecuting authorities, asking that he be prevented from further contact with C.M.H. As a result of Harper's request, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation ordered Appellant to cease any further attempts at communication with C.M.H. Subsequently, Appellant filed a complaint in federal court alleging Harper, prosecutors and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation violated his constitutional rights by preventing his communication with C.M.H. In December of 2004, Appellant also filed a motion for supervised visitation in the Hocking County Court of Common Pleas. The court denied the motion, and Appellant appealed that decision to this court.

{¶7} The petition for adoption hearing was postponed repeatedly due to motions by Appellant, largely based on the fact that his other actions in federal and state court were ongoing. In August of 2006, we dismissed Appellant's appeal regarding supervised visitation due to lack of a final appealable order. Finally, in March of 2007, a hearing on the consent to adoption took place.

{¶8} During the hearing, Appellant was represented by counsel, but due to his incarceration, he was not physically present. Instead, he participated by phone. After testimony from several witnesses and discussions with his attorney, Appellant decided to give his consent to Harper's adoption of C.M.H. His only stipulation was that Harper would provide him a yearly photograph of C.M.H and a report on his status, including school records. After agreeing orally during the hearing, several days later, Appellant executed his written consent.

{¶9} After the subsequent best interest hearing, the court approved the final decree of adoption by entry on June 12, 2007. The court found Appellant consented to the adoption of C.M.H by Harper, and that the adoption was in the best interest of the child. Upon another motion by Appellant, an agreed amended entry was entered which included language affirming that Harper would provide an annual photograph of C.M.H and a progress report.

{¶ 10} In August of 2007, Appellant filed a motion to withdraw his consent to adoption and to find Harper in contempt. After a hearing on the motion to withdraw consent, the trial court, in an October 11, 2007 entry, found that Appellant knowingly and intelligently consented to the adoption and overruled his motion. Appellant's federal court action, alleging that Harper, prosecutors and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation had violated his constitutional rights, was similarly dismissed. On October 25, 2007, Appellant filed the current appeal.

II. Assignments of Error

{¶ 11} 1. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY NOT CONTINUING THE ADOPTION HEARING DUE TO THE PENDING CASE IN JUVENILE COURT ON VISITATION AND IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT PERTAINING TO KATHA HARPERS [SIC] FALSE ACCUSATIONS IN HER PETITION FOR ADOPTION AND VIOLATION OF TWO COURT ORDERS.

{¶12} 2. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AND PREJUDICED THE APPELLANT AS WELL AS DENIED HIM THE RIGHT OF A FAIR TRIAL AND DUE PROCESS WHEN IT REFUSED THE APPELLANT TO BE PHYSICALLY PRESENT DURING THE FINAL STAGE OF THE ADOPTION HEARING.

{¶ 13} 3. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW AND IS/WAS BIASED AND PREJUDICED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BY INFORMING THE PETITIONER OF HOW TO ACCOMPLISH HER GOAL OF ADOPTION WITHOUT THE APPELLANT' S CONSENT. ...


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