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In re Aliyah M.

Supreme Court of Maine

July 12, 2016

IN RE ALIYAH M.

          Submitted On Briefs: May 26, 2016

         Portland District Court docket number PC-2013-39

         On the briefs:

          Jared S. Brewer, Esq., Schneider and Brewer Attorneys at Law, Waterville, for appellant mother

          Appellant mother pro se

          Janet 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 Services

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In May 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition to terminate the mother's parental rights.[1] 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 child.

         [¶3] 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).

         [¶4] 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.

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶5] 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, ΒΆ 10, 130 A.3d 389. We write, however, to address the ...


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