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In re Ethan H.
New Hampshire Supreme Court
609 A.2d. 1222 (1992)
Judith H. (defendant), was the mother of seven-year-old Ethan H. Judith struck Ethan six times on his bare buttocks as discipline for misbehavior. The next day, the elementary school reported to the New Hampshire Division for Children and Youth Services (DCYS) (plaintiff) that Ethan had been struck by Judith. DCYS investigated, observed Ethan was bruised on his back and buttocks, and Ethan admitted to being struck in an interview with the DCYS social worker. The district court then ordered Ethan be placed in DCYS’s protective custody and ordered Ethan be medically examined. Dr. Walker examined Ethan for DCYS and reported the injuries were not indicative of abuse or harm. After a hearing, the district court ruled Ethan was an abused child because his injuries were not incurred accidentally. Judith appealed. At a hearing before the superior court, Judith admitted to corporal punishment but argued Ethan was not harmed. Judith’s sister testified that Ethan immediately went outside to play after the punishment and that he often had bruises from normal play. DCYS did not call Dr. Walker to testify but did call a different doctor and a DCYS social worker to testify about the bruises. DCYS did not question either witness about whether the bruises indicated harm. The superior court affirmed. Judith appealed, and the case was remanded back to the superior court. At the second superior-court hearing, DCYS did not call any witnesses and Judith called her father, a retired physician, who testified that bruising alone was not indicative of harm and that striking the buttocks in corporal punishment is safe. DCYS did not rebut the testimony. The superior court again ruled that Ethan was an abused child. Judith appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)
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