In re Lukas K.

Connecticut Appellate Court

April 20, 2010

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS: DUE PROCESS, RIGHTS OF INCARCERATED FATHER

The appellate court denied the incarcerated father’s claim that his due process rights were violated when the court failed to grant his motion for transcripts and a continuance of the termination of parental rights trial. Firstly, the court found that it must apply the Golding standard of review as constitutional nature of the requests for continuance and transcripts were not clearly articulated to the trial court. Thus, applying the Golding and Matthews v. Eldridge analytical framework, the appellate court found that the father’s claim failed on the third Golding prong: there was no actual violation of his procedural due process rights. The court, distinguishing the respondent’s case from arguably similar precedents involving the due process rights of incarcerated parties where due process violations were noted, held that the state did not play a role in making the father unavailable to participate in the trial, and that the father and his counsel initially averred that father would be available for the trial and that the father did not file timely motions in advance of trial to notify the court of the need for a continuance. Accordingly, the appellate court found that there were no procedural irregularities that rendered the trial “fundamentally unfair.” The court also rejected the father’s claim that the trial court’s denial of his request to participate in the trial via videoconferencing violated his due process rights. The appellate court, again applying the Matthews standard of review, acknowledged the importance of the liberty interest at stake but held that there was little risk of erroneous deprivation of that interest as a result of the inability to participate by videoconference. The respondent could participate by telephone conference on the first day of the trial and was ably represented by counsel for the duration of the trial.

Next, the court denied the respondent father’s claim that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of criminal conduct which pre-dated the respondent’s relationship with the child’s mother. The appellate court held that such evidence was relevant to establishing whether the father engaged in a course of conduct that rendered him unable to support an ongoing parent-child relationship, and that regardless the respondent could not demonstrate that he was substantially prejudiced by the evidence.

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