On Briefs: November 21, 2019.
Brittany M.R. Sawyer, Esq., Holmes Legal Group, LLC, Wells,
for appellant mother
M. Frey, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, and HUMPHREY,
[¶1] Brittany B. appeals from orders entered
in the District Court (Springvale, Mulhern, J. )
finding, by a preponderance of the evidence, that two of her
children were in jeopardy to their health or
welfare in the mothers care. She argues, on appeal, that her
due process rights were violated because of ineffective
assistance of counsel. She also argues that the court abused
its discretion in denying her motion in limine and admitting
in evidence certain statements made by the children to
Department of Health and Human Services caseworkers.
Concluding that the mother has not presented a prima facie
case of attorney ineffectiveness and that the record supports
the courts evidentiary ruling, we affirm the judgment.
The following facts are drawn from the courts findings,
which are supported by competent record evidence, and from
the procedural record. See In re Child of
Radience K., 2019 ME 73, ¶ 2, 208 A.3d 380.
In late 2018, after the two children had expressed to a
caseworker that they had been physically abused by their
father, the Department filed a petition for a
child protection order for the two children. At the time,
however, the Department did not request that the court remove
the children from the mothers custody. In early 2019, the
Department dismissed the petition after the mother began
participating in treatment services.
On March 8, 2019, the mother left the children in her home
with two men. The two men had a history of substance
abuse. That night, while the mother was
absent, an officer responded to a report of an assault
occurring at her home. Individuals had allegedly come to the
home and assaulted one of the men watching the children.
After the incident, Department caseworkers interviewed the
older child, who explained that the children heard noises and
were afraid throughout the incident. The next evening, the
mother again left her children in the care of one of the two
men. Two days later, the mother visited a hospital—
accompanied by the youngest child— seeking treatment
for a skin infection. After the mother became verbally
assaultive when asked if she had been using drugs, a
physician made a referral to the Department.
[¶5] The Department again initiated child
protection proceedings as to the two children on March 12,
2019, and petitioned for a preliminary protection order. The
court (Moskowitz, J. ) entered a preliminary
protection order that day, placing the children in temporary
Department custody. After the order had been entered, the
mother fled with the children to Massachusetts. On March 18,
2019, the children were located, and Department caseworkers
traveled to a hospital in Massachusetts where the children
were waiting with a Massachusetts state trooper. The children
were taken to a foster home in Maine that same day.
[¶6] At a summary preliminary hearing on
March 25, 2019, the mother exercised her right to contest the
temporary order. Following the hearing, the court (Duddy ...