Dept. of Human Services v. A.S.-M.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Juvenile Law
  • Date Filed: 05-06-2015
  • Case #: A155378
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Garrett, P.J. for the Court; DeVore, J.; & Schuman, S.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

In a hearing for the termination of parental rights, a guardian ad litem deemed to have been inappropriately appointed for a parent deprives the parent of the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner. This runs afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution and creates a fundamentally unfair proceeding, despite any evidence tending to show the unfitness of the parent.

Mother and father appeal judgments which terminated their parental rights to their six children. The couple, who met in a drug treatment program, maintained an unsafe household in which the father abused the mother on multiple occasions and the mother had substantial mental disorders rendering her unable to distance herself from the father. Upon the request of the wife’s attorney, the wife was represented by a guardian ad litem (GAL) because she evidenced difficulty in comprehending some circumstances of the trial. The decision to use a GAL for the mother was supported by her psychological evaluator based on a letter the wife sent to her attorney, not on the evaluation administered by the evaluator. This Court held that the lower court was correct in determining that the father was an unfit parent and in terminating his parental rights to the children. However, the Court ruled that the mother did not receive a fair termination proceeding as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution because a GAL was inappropriately appointed for the mother in the lower court proceeding. Affirmed to the father, remanded for the mother.

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