With today’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court requested the views of the Texas Solicitor General in a case about the constitutionality of a Texas law about parental termination.

The Court did not issue any opinions or select new cases for oral argument.

Six-Month Cutoff To Challenge Parental Termination

The Court has invited the Texas Solicitor General to offer views about the merits of In re E.R., No. 11-0282.

The dispute is about a Texas statute that cuts off challenges to a parental-termination order six months after the order is signed — even if the parent was notified only by publication rather than by personal service.

Texas Family Code §161.211(b) provides:

(b) . . . the validity of an order terminating the parental rights of a person who is served by citation by publication is not subject to collateral or direct attack after the sixth month after the date the order was signed.

This challenge was brought by the parent whose rights were terminated. Approximately two years after an order of termination, the parent filed a motion for new trial. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the statute barred any challenge after six months.

In the Texas Supreme Court, the parent argues that the way the court of appeals applied the statute renders it unconstitutional.

The Court heard oral arguments on February 28, 2012.

As it turns out, the only other “CVSG” (call for the views of the solicitor general) on the Texas Supreme Court’s active docket was also argued this same day. That case is In re Stephanie Lee, No. 11-0732, which also involved family-law issues. The issue is when a trial court can look beyond the parties’ mediated-settlement agreement if it disagrees about the best interests of the child.