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In re Alijah K.

Supreme Court of Maine

August 30, 2016

IN RE ALIJAH K.

          Argued: April 6, 2016

         On the briefs:

          Lauren Wille, Esq., DeGrinney Law Offices, Portland, for appellant father

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services

          E. James Burke, Esq., and Isabel Mullin, Stud. Atty., Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic's Prisoner Assistance Clinic,

          Portland, for amicus curiae Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic's Prisoner Assistance Clinic

          Zachary Heiden, Esq., American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Foundation, Portland, Jamesa J. Drake, Esq., Drake Law LLC, Auburn, and Danylle Carson, Esq., Boothby Perry, LLC, Turner, for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Foundation

         At oral argument:

          Lauren Wille, Esq., for appellant father

          Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee Department of Health and Human Services

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

          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] The father of Alijah K. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Powers, J.) terminating his parental rights to the child pursuant to 22 M.R.S. §4055 [2015].[1] The father argues that the court impermissibly relied on the fact of his incarceration to find that he is unfit to parent Alijah. We disagree, and affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The Department of Health and Human Services instituted this child protection matter on December 18, 2013, roughly one month after the child's birth, and while the child was in only his mother's care. In its child protection petition and accompanying request for a preliminary protection order, the Department alleged that the mother had reported to the Department that "[the father] has left the state of Maine after being involved in legal trouble and she believes [he is] in Philadelphia. He has had no contact or ...


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