Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

M.G. v. Madison County Department of Human Resources

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

September 8, 2017

M.G.
v.
Madison County Department of Human Resources

         Appeals from Madison Juvenile Court (JU-16-181.01, JU-16-181.02, and JU-16-447.01)

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         M.G. ("the mother") appeals from separate judgments of the Madison Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") finding her children, J.P. and Ja.P. ("the children"), dependent and divesting her of their custody. We reverse the juvenile court's judgments.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On February 18, 2016, A.F. ("the paternal grandmother") filed a petition seeking custody of J.P.; that case was assigned case no. JU-16-181.01. A guardian ad litem was appointed to represent J.P. The mother filed an answer to the paternal grandmother's petition. On April 28, 2016, J.P.'s guardian ad litem filed a motion requesting that the juvenile court enter an order placing custody of J.P. and his sibling, Ja.P., with their paternal grandparents. The mother filed a motion seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent her because, according to the motion, the mother was 17 years old; on May 9, 2016, the juvenile court entered an order appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the mother. Meanwhile, on May 4, 2016, the Madison County Department of Human Resources ("DHR") filed a petition in the juvenile court, asserting that J.P. was dependent; that petition was assigned case no. JU-16-181.02. On May 5, 2016, DHR filed a petition in the juvenile court, asserting that Ja.P. was dependent; that petition was assigned case no. JU-16-447.01. The juvenile court entered a single order in case no. JU-16-181.02 and in case no. JU-16-447.01, appointing the same guardian ad litem for the children as had been appointed to represent J.P. in case no. JU-16-181.01 and appointing the same guardian ad litem for the mother as had been appointed to represent her in case no. JU-16-181.01.

         On June 7, 2016, the juvenile court entered separate judgments in all three cases, finding the children dependent and vesting DHR with protective supervision of the children. On September 26, 2016, an order was entered in all three cases, setting them for a final hearing on November 7, 2016. The juvenile court entered an order in all three cases on November 7, 2016, resetting the final hearing for December 13, 2016. On December 6, 2016, the juvenile court entered an order in all three cases, resetting the final hearing for December 12, 2016. The mother was not present at the December 12, 2016, hearing, but she was represented by counsel. The mother's counsel indicated at the December 12, 2016, hearing that the hearing had been continued from November 7, 2016, because the mother had arrived late to the proceeding. Also at the December 12, 2016, hearing, counsel for DHR, counsel for the paternal grandmother, counsel for the children's father, the mother's guardian ad litem, and the children's guardian ad litem stipulated to a permanency plan, pursuant to which custody of J.P. would be transferred to the paternal grandmother and custody of Ja.P. would be transferred to D.F. ("the paternal great-grandmother"). The mother's counsel objected to the stipulations regarding the permanency plan on behalf of the mother. No evidence was offered by any party, and the hearing was concluded.

         Following the hearing on December 12, 2016, the juvenile court entered a single judgment on December 28, 2016, in case nos. JU-16-181.01 and JU-16-181.02, concluding that J.P. remained dependent, denying the mother's objection to the permanency plan regarding relative placement, and vesting legal and physical custody of J.P. in the paternal grandmother. On that same date, the juvenile court entered a separate judgment in case no. JU-16-447.01, concluding that Ja.P. remained dependent, denying the mother's objection to the permanency plan regarding relative placement, and vesting legal and physical custody of Ja.P. in the paternal great-grandmother. The mother filed a single motion to alter, amend, or vacate the juvenile court's judgments entered in all three cases. Following a hearing, the juvenile court entered separate orders in all three cases on January 17, 2017, denying the mother's postjudgment motion. The mother timely filed separate notices of appeal to this court.

         The mother's appellate counsel filed, as to all three of the mother's appeals, a "no-merit" brief and a motion to withdraw, pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), and in accordance with J.K. v. Lee County Department of Human Resources, 668 So.2d 813 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995). The mother's counsel indicated that he had attempted to serve the mother with the motion and accompanying brief in accordance with Anders and J.K. but that those attempts had been unsuccessful. The mother did not provide this court with any issues to be considered on appeal. On July 19, 2017, this court entered an order directing the mother's counsel to file a supplemental brief addressing whether clear and convincing evidence had been presented to support the juvenile court's findings of dependency. See Ala. Code 1975, § 12-15-310(b), and L.F. v. Cullman Cty. Dep't of Human Res., 175 So.3d 183 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015). The mother's counsel filed a supplemental brief, and DHR filed a letter indicating its intent to not file a reply brief.[1]

         Standard of Review

         A judgment adjudicating a child as dependent must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. See Ala. Code 1975, § 12-15-310(b). "'Clear and convincing evidence' is '"[e]vidence that, when weighed against evidence in opposition, will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm conviction as to each essential element of the claim and a high probability as to the correctness of the conclusion."'" C.O. v. Jefferson Cty. Dep't of Human Res., 206 So.3d 621, 627 (Ala. Civ. App. 2016) (quoting L.M. v. D.D.F., 840 So.2d 171, 179 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002), quoting in turn Ala. Code 1975, § 6-11-20(b)(4)).

"'[T]he evidence necessary for appellate affirmance of a judgment based on a factual finding in the context of a case in which the ultimate standard for a factual decision by the trial court is clear and convincing evidence is evidence that a fact-finder reasonably could find to clearly and convincingly ... establish the fact sought to be proved.'

"KGS Steel[, Inc. v. McInish, ] 47 So.3d [749] at 761 [(Ala. Civ. App. 2006)].

"To analogize the test set out ... by Judge Prettyman [in Curley v. United States, 160 F.2d 229, 232-33 (D.C. Cir. 1947), ] for trial courts ruling on motions for a summary judgment in civil cases to which a clear-and-convincing-evidence standard of proof applies, 'the judge must view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden'; thus, the appellate court must also look through a prism to determine whether there was substantial evidence before the trial court to support a factual finding, based upon the trial court's weighing of the evidence, that would 'produce in ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.