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In re Michael C.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island
557 A.2d 1219 (1989)


The Rhode Island Department of Children and Their Families (DCF) (plaintiff) filed a petition in family court against the parents of 13-year-old Michael C., alleging that his adopted father, John, had sexually abused Michael. Michael’s mother denied that the conduct had occurred. At a custody hearing, Michael’s mother testified that she did not believe Michael when he told her what John had done. During his testimony, John denied sexually abusing Michael but admitted that he would kill or injure Michael if Michael became violent with his mother for not believing the allegation of sexual abuse. When it was time for Michael to testify, Michael’s guardian ad litem informed the trial judge that Michael was experiencing a great deal of anxiety about testifying in open court. The trial judge decided to question Michael in camera without the other parties present. The judge then requested that the parties submit written questions for the judge to ask Michael in camera. At the conclusion of testimony and evidence, the trial court found that Michael had been sexually abused by John and neglected by both parents. The court granted DCF temporary custody of Michael and restrained John from having any contact with Michael. Michael’s parents appealed, arguing that they had the constitutional right to confront Michael in open court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kelleher, J.)

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