In re L.M.B., 284 N.C. App. 41 (2022)

  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated neglected in 2019 and was placed with relatives. After the primary permanent plan was changed to adoption, DSS filed a TPR motion in 2021, which was granted. The dispositional portion of the TPR order was signed by the chief district court judge for the judge who presided over the hearing. The parents appeal challenging the grounds; father also challenges the best interests finding and the validity of the order.
  • Rule 52 of the Rules of Civil Procedure requires the court to find facts, make conclusions, and “enter judgment accordingly.” 284 N.C. App. at 52. Although the presiding judge did not sign the order, Rule 63 authorizes entry of judgment when the judge is unavailable for “other reason.” 284 N.C. App. at 52. The substitute judge performs a ministerial rather than judicial task. Here the chief district court judge signed on behalf of the presiding judge rather than in his own name. The written order is consistent with the oral rendition of the presiding judge, and there is no indication any substantive determinations were made by the signing (substitute) judge. The signing of the order was ministerial in nature and proper under Rule 63.
Termination of Parental Rights
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