Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint seeking to be determined a de facto parent of Appellee's adopted child, holding that the district court erred in dismissing this case for lack of standing. The district court dismissed Appellant's complaint for lack of standing. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court abused its discretion in refusing to hold a hearing to determine disputed facts and in concluding that Appellee's refusal to allow Appellant to adopt the child was dispositive of the issue of whether Appellee acknowledged or behaved as though Appellant was a parent to the child. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case, holding that the court's treatment of the single fact of Appellee's refusal to allow Appellant to adopt as dispositive in the standing analysis constituted an error of law, and the court should have held a hearing to determine disputed facts regarding the issue of standing. View "Young v. King" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child, holding that Mother had a right to the effective assistance of counsel at the proceeding where she consented to the termination of her parental rights and that Mother received effective assistance when she voluntarily gave her consent. At a hearing, Mother advised the court that she had decided to consent to a termination of her parental rights. Satisfied that Mother's decision was knowing and voluntary, the court ordered that Mother's parental rights be terminated. Mother later filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 59, arguing that her consent was involuntary and that she had received ineffective assistance of counsel in giving consent. The court denied Mother's request to set aside her consent. Mother also filed a Me. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6) motion for relief from the termination judgment based on counsel's alleged ineffective assistance. The court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the court did not clearly err in finding that Mother voluntarily consented to a termination of her parental rights or in denying the Rule 60(b)(6) motion for relief without holding a second evidentiary hearing. View "In re Child of Rebecca J." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father to their child pursuant to Maine's Child and Family Services and Child Protection Act, 22 Me. Rev. Stat. 4001 to 4099-H, and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C.S. 1901-1963, holding that the district court did not err in terminating the parents' parental rights and denying their other requests for relief. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err by concluding that active efforts had been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, as required by ICWA; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the court's determination that Mother was parentally unfit within the meaning of state law; (3) the district court did not err in denying Father's two motions to transfer the case to the Penobscot Nation Tribal Court; and (4) the district court did not err in denying Father's post-judgment motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. View "In re Child of Radience K." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's motion to modify the parties' divorce judgment and her mother for the court to reconsider that order, holding that the district court did not err in its judgment. On appeal, Appellant argued that the court summarily dismissed the guardian ad litem's report, testimony, and recommendations regarding primary residency and that the court erred by denying Appellant's motion for reconsideration. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the record evidence did not compel the court to conclude that it would be in the child's best interest to reside primarily with Appellant; (2) the court did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant's motion for reconsideration; (3) the court did not "summarily dismiss" the court-appointed guardian ad litem's testimony; and (4) Appellant's contention that the court's analysis was incomplete was without merit. View "Roalsvik v. Comack" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her three children, holding that the court properly determined that Mother was parentally unfit and that termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of the children. The district court terminated Mother's parental rights pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22. 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the record supported the court's finding that Mother was parentally unfit and that termination of her parental rights was in the children's best interests; and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in its ultimate decision to terminate Mother's parental rights. View "In re Children of Jessica D." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court modifying the terms of Appellant's divorce from Appellee as to parental rights and responsibilities for the parties' two children, holding that the district court erred in determining that the parties agreed to the terms of the modified divorce judgment. After the parties divorced, they both moved to modify the judgment as to parental rights and responsibilities. The parties and the guardian ad litem then engaged in a judicial settlement conference, after which the court stated that an agreement was reached. The court then entered a judgment purporting to memorialize that agreement without creating any record that would show the terms of any such agreement and the parties' confirmation of it. Appellant moved for relief from the judgment, arguing that the judgment did not accurately reflect the parties' agreement. The court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding that, in the absence of a factual record from which to determine whether the modified divorce judgment accurately reflects the parties' agreement, the court's findings that the parties reached a full agreement were clearly erroneous. View "Bahn v. Small" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv), holding that the standard of proof in termination of parental rights cases is constitutionally adequate. On appeal, Mother argued that parental unfitness be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and that the statutory standard burden of proof of clear and convincing evidence was constitutionally insufficient. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) there is no reason to overturn precedent holding that the standard of proof of clear and convincing evidence is constitutionally sufficient in termination of parental rights cases; and (2) the court acted within its discretion in terminating Mother's parental rights. View "In re Child of Shayla S." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father to their child, holding that the court did not clearly err in finding both parents unfit and did not abuse its discretion in concluding that termination of the parents' rights was in the best interest of the child. Specifically, the Court held (1) the court did not Cleary err in finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Father was unable or unwilling to protect the child from jeopardy or take responsibility for the child within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs; and (2) even if placing the child in an adoptive home may be challenging, the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that termination of both parents' rights was in the best interest of the child. View "In re Child of Carl D." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 4055(1)(B)(2)(a) and (b)(i)-(ii), holding that the district court's judgment was not an abuse of discretion. Specifically, the Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the court's findings of parental unfitness; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the court's determination that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the child's best interest; (3) the court did not commit clear error or abuse its discretion in determining that termination was in the child's best interest; and (4) the court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Mother's motions for a new trial or to reopen the evidence. View "In re Child of Erica H." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the court's finding that termination was in the child's best interest, and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in terminating Mother's parental rights instead of ordering a permanency guardianship. Specifically, the Court held (1) Mother's due process rights were not violated when the court commenced the termination hearing , as scheduled, in Mother's absence; (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in ordering a permanency guardianship rather than a termination of Mother's parental rights; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the court's findings. View "In re Children of Danielle F." on Justia Law