Submitted On Briefs: May 26, 2016
District Court docket number PC-2013-39
S. Brewer, Esq., Schneider and Brewer Attorneys at Law,
Waterville, for appellant mother
Appellant mother pro se
T. Mills, Attorney General, Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty.
Gen., and Sarah Glidden, Stud. Atty., Office of the Attorney
General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
The mother of Aliyah M. appeals from a judgment entered in
the District Court (Portland, Eggert, J.)
terminating her parental rights. The mother asserts that the
evidence was insufficient to support the court's
judgment, and she also argues, for the first time during the
pendency of this case, that she was denied effective
assistance of counsel during the termination proceedings.
Concluding that the judgment is supported by the evidence and
that the mother has not presented-in form or in substance-a
prima facie case of attorney ineffectiveness, we affirm.
In May 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services
filed a petition to terminate the mother's parental
rights. The petition was preceded by nearly three
years of the Department's intervention with this family
beginning when the child was an infant, due to, among other
issues, chronic domestic violence between the parents in the
child's presence-including an incident that resulted in
serious injury to the mother and a different violent episode
when the child was knocked down-and the mother's failure
to fully acknowledge the effect of that violence on the
A three-day hearing on the termination petition was held in
September 2015. By a judgment issued in October 2015, the
court terminated the mother's parental rights after
determining by clear and convincing evidence that she
"has not made the changes necessary to meet [the
child's] needs and to protect her from jeopardy in a
reasonable time, " and that termination is in the best
interest of the child. See 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i) (2015).
Through trial counsel, the mother filed a notice of appeal.
See 22 M.R.S. § 4006 (2015); M.R. App. P. 2.
The court then granted trial counsel's motion for leave
to withdraw, and, at the mother's request, we appointed
new counsel to represent her on appeal. In compliance with
the process outlined in In re M.C., 2014 ME 128,
¶ 7, 104 A.3d 139, that attorney filed an appellate
brief that outlines the factual and procedural history of the
case and states that he did not find any arguable issues of
merit for appeal. Counsel also filed a motion for an
enlargement of time to allow the mother to personally file a
supplemental brief. After we granted the motion for
enlargement, the mother filed a supplemental brief in which
she disputes the evidence, challenges the court's
findings, and asserts that trial counsel's representation
of her was ineffective.
Contrary to the mother's contentions, the evidence is
sufficient to support the court's findings, by clear and
convincing evidence, that the Department proved at least one
ground of parental unfitness and that termination is in the
best interest of the child. See 22 M.R.S. §
4055(1)(B)(2); In re G.T., 2016 ME 2, ¶ 10, 130
A.3d 389. We write, however, to address the ...