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Ex parte S.B.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

September 30, 2014

Ex parte S.B. PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS In re: Limestone County Department of Human Resources
v.
S.B.; Ex parte S.B. PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS In re: Limestone County Department of Human Resources
v.
S.B.; Ex parte S.B. PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS In re: Limestone County Department of Human Resources
v.
S.B.

Released for Publication June 10, 2015.

(Limestone Juvenile Court, JU-13-201.02 and JU-14-18.02). (Limestone Juvenile Court, JU-13-200.02). (Limestone Juvenile Court, JU-13-202.02). Jeanne W. Anderson, Trial Judge.

For Petitioner: Michael C. Lambert, Lambert Law Firm, LLC, Athens.

THOMAS, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ.

OPINION

Page 600

THOMAS, Judge.

The Limestone County Department of Human Resources (" DHR" ) has filed petitions to terminate the parental rights of S.B. (" the mother" ) to her four children, M.L.P., K.F.B., C.L.S., and T.S. (" the children" ). The Limestone Juvenile Court held a permanency hearing in the children's cases on July 10, 2014. The mother was not present at the hearing. The mother's counsel had filed motions to withdraw on July 2, 2014, which the juvenile court granted on the date of the hearing, leaving the mother unrepresented by counsel at the hearing. After the hearing, the juvenile court entered orders in each case on July 15, 2014, relieving DHR of further responsibility to make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the mother or to reunite the mother and the children.

The mother filed motions, pursuant to Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., seeking relief from the July 15, 2014, orders on August 22, 2014. In those motions, the mother argued that she had not attended the July 10, 2014, hearing because she felt that she had been threatened with arrest by her DHR caseworker, Jennifer Sampieri. The mother appended two affidavits to her motions; in those affidavits, the mother's mother, J.G., and J.G.'s fiancé , J.W., each stated that, before the July 10, 2014, hearing, Sampieri had told them that the mother would be arrested if she came to the next hearing.

The juvenile court held another hearing on August 22, 2014. At that hearing, the juvenile court considered in the children's cases both the mother's motions seeking relief from the July 15, 2014, orders and the mother's motions seeking a stay of the trial on the termination-of-parental-rights petitions, which had been set for October 2, 2014. The juvenile court denied both motions in orders entered on August 28, 2014.

The mother filed three petitions for the writ of mandamus in the Alabama Supreme Court on September 11, 2014, and that court transferred the petitions to this court on September 17, 2014, because the petitions fall within this court's jurisdiction. See Rule 28, Ala. R. Juv. P. (providing that, when the record on appeal is adequate, appeals from judgments in juvenile cases other than those involving delinquency matters lie in the Court of Civil Appeals), and Ala. Code 1975, § 12-3-11 (stating that this court has original jurisdiction of petitions for the writ of mandamus " in relation to matters in which [this] court has appellate jurisdiction" ). In each petition, the mother seeks a writ ordering the juvenile court to stay the termination-of-parental-rights trial pending the resolution of a criminal investigation of the mother stemming from allegations of child abuse arising from DHR's investigations. In each petition, she also seeks a writ requiring the juvenile court to set aside the July 15, 2014, permanency orders relieving DHR of making further reasonable efforts to rehabilitate her.

" '" Mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ, to be issued only where there is (1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate remedy; and (4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court." '"

Ex parte A.M.P., 997 So.2d 1008, 1014 (Ala. 2008) (quoting Ex parte Perfection Siding, Inc., 882 So.2d 307, 309-10 (Ala. 2003), quoting in turn Ex parte Integon Corp., 672 So.2d 497, 499 (Ala. 1995)).

Page 601

DHR has filed a letter-brief response in which it concedes that the mother is entitled to a stay of the termination-of-parental-rights trial. As we explained recently, a court facing the question whether a civil action should be stayed pending a criminal ...


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