In re Heather L.

Connecticut Appellate Court

274 Conn. 174 (2005)

June 21, 2005

 

The court, in this matter, denied a father’s motion for a mistrial and upheld the lower court’s decision to terminate his parental rights. The trial court terminated his parental rights due to findings of abandonment, failure on his part to rehabilitate, and lack of a continuous parent-child relationship. As a basis for requesting a mistrial, the father alleged that the trial judge was biased against him. It was the father’s contention that since the trial judge had presided over previous proceedings regarding the termination of the father’s rights in relation to Heather’s sibling, and was thereby familiar with some of the facts of this case in advance of hearing it, the judge was biased against him and should have been disqualified from hearing the case regarding Heather.

The court concluded that the information the trial judge had been exposed to in the course of hearing the termination proceedings relating to the father’s other child was not necessarily a source of bias or prejudice in this case. Since the father failed to present adequate evidence to demonstrate actual bias on the part of the judge, the court rejected the his claim that the judge should have been disqualified from hearing this matter.

Interestingly, the father’s attorney in this case hadn’t objected to the admission of the portion of the record from the sibling’s case, which he appeared to be concerned about as being potentially prejudicial. Since it was clear to the court that the trial judge had not been exposed to any additional information as a result of having heard the sibling’s case, there were no grounds for the disqualification of the judge.

This case may be accessed by going to the state Judicial Branch website at:http://www.jud.state.ct.us/external/supapp/Cases/AROcr/CR274/274CR79.pdf

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