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In re Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 9, 2017

In the Interest of DOE CHILDREN, Children Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
v.
JOHN DOE (2017-4), Respondent-Appellant. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,

         2017 Opinion No. 62

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Andrew Ellis, Magistrate Judge.

         Magistrate court judgment terminating parental rights, affirmed.

          Ada County Public Defender's Office, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          ON THE BRIEFS

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         John Doe (Doe) appeals the Ada County magistrate court's decision terminating his parental rights. The magistrate court terminated Doe's rights on the statutory basis of Idaho Code section 16-2005(1), namely, that Doe is incarcerated and is likely to remain incarcerated for a substantial period of time during his sons'(A.C. and S.C.) minority. The court also found termination was in the best interests of A.C. and S.C. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A.C. and S.C. were taken into foster care on September 23, 2015, after police were called to the family home due to neglect of supervision. S.C., who was two at the time, was found wandering in the street. S.C. was not wearing a shirt, shoes, or socks, was wearing a dirty and full diaper, and had injuries on his face and head. This was not the first time S.C. had been found wandering alone in the road. A.C., who was seven at the time, came looking for S.C. and told police that their mom was busy getting ready to go somewhere. Approximately thirty minutes later, mother came looking for S.C. and A.C. Following an attempt to speak to mother and a brief struggle, mother was arrested for Misdemeanor Injury to Child. Because of the imminent danger caused by mother's neglect and because Doe was incarcerated, the Department of Health and Welfare (Department) was given temporary legal custody of the children.

         Approximately a year later, after making reasonable attempts for reunification, the Department filed a Petition for Termination of Parent-Child Relationship. A default termination hearing as to mother was held on November 17, 2016, and the court terminated mother's parental rights thereafter. On January 5, 2017, the court held Doe's termination hearing.

         Doe's case manager at the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) testified that Doe's earliest possible release date was November 2018.[1] The case manager also testified that Doe had committed multiple rule violations, including testing positive for opiates, tattooing, and engaging in disrespectful behavior towards staff. Doe testified to having a significant bond with his children and his desire to retain his parental rights. He also testified to being a drug addict and that he recognized he would have to demonstrate he was stable and able to care for the children before he could regain custody of them.

         Following the hearing, on January 30, 2017, the magistrate court issued its memorandum decision. In its decision, the court terminated Doe's parental rights, finding that the State "has proven by clear and convincing evidence that grounds exist to terminate the parental rights of [Doe] to the minor children, [A.C. and S.C.]." The court found grounds for termination because (1) Doe "has been incarcerated and is likely to remain so for a substantial period of time during the child's minority, " I.C. 16-2005(1)(e); and (2) termination is in the best interests of the children. Doe appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The grounds for terminating parental rights must by proven by clear and convincing evidence. Idaho Dep't of Health & Welfare v. Doe, 149 Idaho 474, 478, 235 P.3d 1195, 1199 (2010). Where the trial court has explicitly applied a clear and convincing standard, we do not reweigh the trial court's determination of whether the evidence was clear and convincing. In reDoe (2015-03), 159 Idaho 192, 195, 358 P.3d 77, 80 (2015). Rather, we review whether the trial court's decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence. Doe, 149 Idaho at 478, 235 P.3d at 1199. "Substantial and competent evidence is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. It is the province of the trial court to ...


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