Judge wrongly terminates parental rights without attorney’s presence, appeals court says

The state Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed an Adams County judge who terminated a mother’s parental rights in a trial without her or her attorney present.

A woman named JLS gave birth to a child and within a week, Adams County initiated child welfare proceedings. The government then moved to terminate JLS’ legal rights over the child, with a hearing set for July 5, 2022.

Three weeks before the 5th of July, JLS’s lawyer asked to postpone the hearing.

According to the appeals court, JLS was pregnant with another child due on July 5. She was unable to help prepare for the trial and is unlikely to attend. . Therefore, the attorney believed that his own ability to provide effective assistance was compromised.

JLS was born early, but on July 4 her lawyer again asked for a postponement on the grounds that JLS was dealing with the “after effects” of the birth and could not be helped at all. be ready.

The Judge of the District Court at that time, Katherine R. Delgado did not make a decision on the request of the former lawyer and proceeded to hear the termination on July 5 as scheduled. JLS was not there. In court, Delgado denied requests for adjournment. JLS’s lawyer asked to withdraw from the case.

Delgado allowed him to back off, “supposing you’re in a position where you don’t know how to represent your client and haven’t given your client you the control.”

Without JLS or a lawyer to stand up for him, Delgado’s hearing proceeded. Someone working on the case testified on behalf of the government, without anyone else questioning him. Delgado terminated JLS’ legal rights to her son.

On appeal, the government agreed that Delgado’s actions violated JLS’s right to counsel.

“In Colorado, a parent has the right to appoint an attorney in a termination proceeding,” Judge Rebecca R. Freyre. written on Jan. 19 points for a three-judge panel of the appellate court. “(B) because the mother’s lawyer moved to withdraw in his absence and without notice to the mother, she never had a chance to object.”

Although the JLS also alleged that Delgado violated his constitutional right to due process, the panel reversed the termination decision based on state law and rules of procedurewithout addressing other potential problems.

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