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TPR – Meaningful Cross-Examination, § 906.11(1)

La Crosse Co. DHS v. Kristle S., 2012AP2005, District 4, 11/21/12

court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity

The parent was given a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine the social worker with respect to conditions for the children’s return, in that the trial court permitted extensive questioning on these issues before instructing counsel to pursue a different line of questioning:

¶17      Our review of the record also demonstrates that Kristle had a meaningful opportunity to impeach Simmons’ credibility. …

¶18      Accordingly, we conclude that the court properly restricted Kristle’s questioning of Simmons because additional questioning would have been “needlessly duplicative and cumulative in character.”  State v. Speese, 199 Wis. 2d 597, 605, 545 N.W.2d 510 (1996) (“When the probative value of evidence, including relevant evidence, is needlessly duplicative and cumulative in character, the circuit court need not admit it.”); see Wis. Stat. § 904.03.  As we have stated, Kristle asked Simmons whether Josh or JoLynn had “violent criminal records” several times on two different days of trial.  Simmons did not dispute that neither Josh nor JoLynn had been convicted of a violent crime.  However, Simmons testified that, regardless whether Josh and JoLynn had “violent criminal records,” it was nonetheless true that Josh and JoLynn were not approved to have contact with the children and that they were unsafe.  There is no reason to believe that Simmons would have responded any differently or provided new evidence had she been asked additional questions on this topic.  Accordingly, we believe that the court acted reasonably in restricting Kristle’s cross-examination of Simmons to “[a]void needless consumption of time.”  Wis. Stat.§ 906.11(1)(b).

Test for harmless error on TPR review also discussed, ¶19.

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