Steven V. v. Kelly H

In Steven V. v. Kelly H., 2004 WI 47, 678 N.W.2d 856, 271 Wis. 2d 1 (Wis. 2004) the guardian ad litem successfully filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of the mother's unfitness to parent the child. Id. at 858, 271 Wis. 2d 1, 2004 WI 47. After the court of appeals found the use of summary judgment was harmless error, id., the supreme court found that "neither due process nor the termination statutes require an absolute prohibition on summary judgment in the grounds or unfitness phase of a termination proceeding. That a parent has contested the termination . . . does not automatically mean there are material facts in dispute regarding the grounds for unfitness." Id. at 864, 271 Wis.2d 1, 2004 WI 47. After noting that termination cases are civil proceedings, it found no prohibition in its statutory framework to preclude the use of summary judgment. Id. "Summary judgment is a legal conclusion by the court, and, if carefully administered with due regard for the importance of the rights at stake and the applicable legal standards, is just as appropriate in the unfitness phase of a termination case where the facts are undisputed as it is in any other type of civil action or proceeding . . . ." Id. at 865, 271 Wis. 2d 1, 2004 WI 47. As a result, the court affirmed the grant of partial summary judgment. Id. at 871, 271 Wis. 2d 1, 2004 WI 47.