Thursday, August 17, 2000

Ruling upheld in Justin case

Asente lawyers barred from oral arguments

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that attorneys representing Rich and Cheryl Asente, the Girard couple fighting to adopt a 3-year-old boy named Justin, will not be able to participate in next week's oral arguments.

        They failed to meet a May 30 deadline for filing a brief. Attorneys have stressed they missed the deadline by one minute and have blamed delays on a death in the family, a broken copy machine and time taken to go through an X-ray security machine as one of the attor neys went through the lobby of the Rhodes State Office Tower.

        But, “according (to) the court's rule of practice, parties that fail to file briefs on time are prohibited from participating in oral arguments,” said a press release issued by the state Supreme Court.

        Susan Eisenman, the Asentes' attorney, isn't giving up hope. She and two other attorneys plan to submit another formal request to participate. If unsuccessful in that pursuit, she thinks the Asentes still will be covered by all the court documents that their attorneys have filed.

        “It's not like they'll be completely unrepresented,” she said.

        No matter what, she and the Asentes plan to attend the 10 a.m. Tuesday hearing, which will focus on which state — Kentucky or Ohio — has jurisdiction of Justin's case.

        The Asentes are trying to adopt Justin in Ohio's court system, despite a ruling in Kentucky by Kenton County Circuit Judge Patricia Summe ordering them to return the child to his biological parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Burlington, in February 1999.

        Ohio Probate Judge R.R. Denny Clunk of Stark County kept the Asentes' adoption petition alive and has ruled that Ohio should have jurisdiction of the case. The 11th District Court of Appeals in Ohio reversed that decision, which prompted the Asentes' appeal to the state Supreme Court.

        The Asentes also have filed an appeal with the Kentucky Court of Appeals because of Judge Summe's orders to return Justin. Oral arguments were given in Louisville this month in that case. A ruling is pending.

        Justin went to live with the Asentes in February 1998. His biological parents had signed consents, which were irrevocable after 20 days.

        However, they have said they understood they would have until a special hearing to change their minds.


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