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In re Termination of Parental Rights of Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 22, 2016

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF:JANE DOE (2016-31), Respondent-Appellant.

         Boise, December 2016 Term, 2016 Opinion No. 155

         Appeal from the Magistrate Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Lincoln County. Hon. Jennifer L.K. Haemmerle, Magistrate Judge.

         The judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.

          Jeremy Pittard, Lincoln County Public Defender, Burley, argued for appellant.

          James T. Baird, Deputy Attorney General, Twin Falls, argued for respondent Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

          John B. Lothspeich; Williams, Meservy & Lothspeich, LLP; Jerome, argued for the Guardian Ad Litem.

          EISMANN, Justice.

         This is an appeal out of Lincoln County from a judgment of the magistrate court terminating a mother's parental rights in her three children. The only issue on appeal is the district court's denial of the appointment of a guardian ad litem for the mother. We affirm the judgment of the magistrate court.

         I.

         Factual Background.

         The Lincoln County Sheriff took three children into shelter care on July 10, 2013, pursuant to Idaho Code section 16-1608(1) on the ground that the children were endangered in their surroundings and that prompt removal was necessary to prevent serious physical or mental injury to the children. On the same day, the prosecuting attorney filed a petition under the Child Protective Act ("CPA") and the magistrate court appointed a public defender to represent the children's mother ("Mother") and another public defender to represent the children's father ("Father"). On the following day, the parties stipulated that the children had an unstable home environment and a lack of education, and on July 24, 2013, the court entered an order placing the children in the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare ("Department") pending the adjudicatory hearing. The adjudicatory hearing was held on August 21, 2013. Mother did not appear, but her counsel was present as was the children's father and his counsel. Based upon the stipulation to certain evidence by the parties present and the court taking judicial notice of two reports, the court found that the children were within the purview of the CPA. It ordered that legal custody of each of the children was vested in the Department until each child's eighteenth birthday.

         On May 29, 2015, the Department filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father. The evidentiary hearing on that petition was held on March 29 and 30, 2016. On the morning of the first day of the hearing, Mother's counsel, Mr. Pittard, stated that Mother requested a continuance because she did not feel she had had enough time to speak with him. He also stated that he would like the magistrate court to determine whether a guardian ad litem should be appointed for Mother pursuant to Idaho Code section 16-2007(5). The magistrate court denied the requested continuance and the appointment of a guardian ad litem. Based upon the evidence presented during the hearing, the court found that the parental rights of Mother and of Father should be terminated on the ground that they each had neglected the children and that termination of their parental rights was in the best interests of the children. The court entered its judgment on June 21, 2016, and an amended judgment on July 21, 2016. Mother timely appealed, but Father did not appeal. The factual basis for the court's findings need not be addressed because Mother has not challenged the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law on appeal.

         II.

         Did the Magistrate Court Err in Failing to Appoint a Guardian ...


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