Case Law Update: 01 Apr 2009

K.G. v. Superior Court (Unpub'd), No. E047602

D.G. (then 14 months old) was detained in June, 2007, upon allegations under 300(b) and 300(g) W&IC that included mother's use of methamphetamine, mother's history of mental health issues including bipolar disorder, domestic violence, and that the child's father (mother's live-in boyfrined) was a registered sex offender. The allegations were sustained at the detention hearing, D.G. was removed from mother's custody and placed in a foster home, and reunification services were ordered. Mother failed to comply with reunification services, including drug treatment and drug testing, and frequently missed visitations, counseling sessions and other appointments. At a review hearing in January, 2008, the court found that terminated reuinification services and set a 366.26 hearing.

Mother filed a petition for extraordinary writ, alleging that the SSA did not provide her with reasonable services because of her difficulty in arranging transportation, and that she fit the criteria of 366.22 W&IC and hence was entitled to an additional six months of reunification services.

The appellate court held that substantial evidence supported the juvenile court's determination that reasonable services had been provided, and that in any event, the juvenile court's authority to set a 366.26 hearing at an 18-month review hearing is not conditioned on a reasonable services finding. (Citing Denny H. v. Superior Court (2005)131 Cal.App.4th 1501, 1511). With regards to mother's second claim, the appellate court held that the evidence clearly showed there was no substantial probability that D.G. would be returned to mother's custody and safely maintained in the home within the extended period of time. Accordingly, mother's petition for writ relief was denied.

Opinion: E047602.PDF, E047602.DOC

In re S.V. (Unpub'd), No. C059630

D. V. (appellant), the mother of S. V. (the minor), appealed from an order of the juvenile court terminating her parental rights under 366.26 W&IC. She contended the juvenile court committed reversible error in failing to appoint a guardian ad litem for her, based on her limited skills and mental retardation, reflected by an IQ of 64. D.V. argued that the court's failure to appoint her a guardian ad litem violated her right to due process, and that accordingly all orders entered after detention should be reversed.

The appellate court noted that "[t]the record reflects that neither counsel for appellant nor the juvenile court raised any issue of appellant's competency", and that, despite her limited cognitive skills, appellant was able to participate effectively in some programs, express her opinion about the disposition of the dependency proceedings, and assist her counsel in preparing a petition for modification. Accordingly, the appellate court held that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion by failing to appoint a guardian ad litem, and denied the appeal.

Opinion: C059630.PDF, C059630.DOC

In re A.G. (Unpub'd), No. B210442

A.G.1 (13) and his sister A.G.2 (9) were detained in October, 2007, following allegations that C.G. (father) was stalking R.P. (mother), that he was abusing alcohol and drugs, mother's failure to protect, and allegations of domestic violence. Later that same month, father went to the family home (in violation of a restraining order) and stabbed mother in the chest and arm, attempting to kill her and leaving her hospitalized for 3 days. Father was later arrested, and supervised visits were allowed with A.G.1 while father was in jail. Mother reported concerns that A.G.1 was "giving father his allowance and contacting people and doing things at father's request".

At a six-month review hearing, at which father did not appear, the department reported, inter alia, that father had been convicted of attempting to murder mother and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Father's attorney argued that he would be released from prison sooner, and that there was a question as to whether reasonable services had been provided. The court noted that the minors were home with mother and believed that any further reunification services for father would be discretionary. The court also found there was no likelihood or probability that the minors would be returned to father by the next court date, and terminated services. Father appealed, alleging that reunification services should not have been terminated early and that he was not provided reasonable services while incarcerated. And, in the intervening time period, the children had been returned to the mother's custody under family maintenence services.

The appellate court held, because father had attempted to kill mother and had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and because a permanent restraining order remained in effect until November 2010 (ordering father to remain 100 yards away from the minors), that "the likelihood of reunification was extremely low" and the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in terminating reunification services at the six-month hearing. The court further ruled that, because it had concluded the trial court had discretion to terminate services at the 6-month review hearing, it need not consider the reasonableness of father's services. Accordingly, the appeal was denied and the order terminating reunification services was affirmed.

Opinion: B210442.PDF, B210442.DOC

In re E.G. et al. (Unpub'd), No. B208320

E.G. (born in 2000), N.G. (born in 2003) and A.L. (born in 2005) were detained in 2007 alleging parental drug abuse, domestic violence, and phsyical abuse. The court ordered reunification services to be provided, including parenting classes and alcohol and drug treatment. The SSA reported a low level of compliance with these services, but nevertheless recommended continued reunification services in a case plan update. In March, 2008, mother filed a 388 petition seeking return of the children to her, alleging that "she was never given information about juvenile court procedures, she was given wrong or false information by the Department, and she was not given a chance to prove her innocence and have the minors returned", and that she had completed a parenting class. The juvenile court denied the 388 petition, terminated jurisdiction as to N.G. (who was by then living with her father), continued jurisdiction as to E.G. and A.L., and continued reunification services.

Mother appealed the denial of the 388 petition and the termination of jurisdiction and custody orders pertaining to N.G. Mother alleged that the juvenile court erred in proceeding under 364 W&IC (instead of 366 W&IC) in placing N.G. with her father and terminating jurisdiction.

As to the placement of N.G. with her father, the appellate court held that mother had waived the claim by failing to raise it in the juvenile court, and further that any error in proceeding under 364 instead of 366 was harmless. The court cited In re Jane W. (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 1444, finding that an analogous error was harmless because "[the] evidence amply supports the finding that continued supervision of the minors was no longer necessary". The court further held that her appeal of the denial of her 388 petition was waived because "[d]espite her notice of appeal from the denial of her section 388 petition, mother ignored the issue in her appellate briefs". Accordingly, mother's appeal was denied and the juvenile court's orders were affirmed.

Opinion: B208320.PDF, B208320.DOC

In re C.G. (Unpub'd), No. B208753

C.G. (then 15) came to the SSA's attention in September, 2007, after she was observed loitering in a Los Angeles park. The whereabouts of both parents were unknown. C.G. was detained in foster care upon allegations under 300(b) and 300(g) W&IC for both parents' failure to proivde the necessities of life and failure to support her. Subsequent to C.G.'s detention, father was located in Utah. The Department made an unannounced visit to father's home and found the home clean and appropriate. Nonetheless, the social worker recommended reunification with father but recommended the family be supervised through the ICPC in view of C.G.'s behavioral challenges. Father's ICPC home study was approved in June, 2008, and the juvenile court declared C.G. a dependent of the court, finding by clear and convincing evidence that a substantial danger to C.G. existed in the absence of Department and court supervision. Father appealed, contending that substantial evidence did not support the juvenile court's asserting jurisdiction over C.G.

The appellate court noted that the only dependency allegation which was sustained with respect to father alleged that "C.G. placed herself in danger by running away and failing to attend school, and that these actions demonstrated she required a higher level of care and supervision." The appellate court held that there was no evidence of substantial risk of harm to C.G. by reason of father's conduct, and thus that the juvenile court had no legitimate basis to assert jurisdiction. Accordingly, the jurisdictional order and all subsequent orders were reversed and remanded with direction to the juvenile court to vacate those orders and dismiss the dependency petition.

Opinion: B208753.PDF, B208753.DOC

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