The term ‘judgment,’ as used in the Civil Practice Act (CPA), includes any order from which an appeal lies. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-54. An “order within a deprivation/dependency proceeding deciding temporary custody of the child is a ‘final order’ within the meaning of OCGA § 5-6-34 (a) (1), from which a direct appeal lies.” In the Interest of H.G., A16A1773 Ga. App. (2016) (citing In the Interest of J. P., 267 Ga. 492, 492-493 (1997).
Accordingly, the dependency removal order in the underlying juvenile court case is a judgment for purposes of the Civil Practice Act.
Under the CPA “[e]xcept when otherwise specifically provided by statute, all judgments shall be signed by the judge and filed with the clerk.” OCGA § 9-11-58(a). Although the CPA is not applicable to the juvenile courts, “rules [set forth in the Civil Practice Act] may be adopted by the Juvenile Courts as to all procedures not specifically provided for in the Juvenile Court Code.” English v. Milby, 233 Ga. 7, 9-10(1) (1974).
OCGA § 9-11-58(a) was adopted verbatim in Uniform Juvenile Court Rule 17.1. “(U)ntil an order is signed by the judge (and is filed) it is ineffective for any purpose.” State v. Sullivan, 237 Ga.App. 677, 678, 516 S.E.2d 539 (1999) (pertaining to juvenile court judgment.) Consequently, a juvenile court order that is not ‘signed by the judge’ is not a valid judgment.
The dependency removal order in the underlying juvenile court case was unequivocally NOT signed by the judge. Rather, the order is signed by someone identified only as “LKH,” who purports the signing was with the judge’s ‘express permission.’ While a judge’s secretary or assistant may stamp the judge’s signature on such instruments as a Rule Nisi or a petition for confirmation (See Cornelia Bank v. Brown, 166 Ga. App. 68 (1983)), such instruments are not ‘judgments’ within the meaning of OCGA § 9-11-58(a).
There are no statutory exceptions which would allow someone other than the judge to sign the dependency removal order, and because the order is obviously and expressly signed by someone other than the judge, the order is void on its face and is not effective for any purpose.
This social worker stood in my home and said there were NO risks keeping my children from returning home and then 1-22-18 they emailed us a new case plan outlining more classes, etc more items to do. This department is rogue. Please help with accountability.