In re Tremaine C

Appellate Court

October 13, 2009

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/ INCARCERATED FATHER/ DUE PROCESS

 

Respondent father appealed judgment of the trial court terminating his parental rights, on the ground that because he was incarcerated for a portion of the trial and was not brought to the court he was denied his constitutional right to be present at trial and confront the witnesses against him. The appellate court held that the although DCF belatedly discovered that the father was incarcerated for a portion of the termination trial, the steps taken to inform the court and permit the respondent’s subsequent participation in the trial were sufficient to address any risk of erroneous deprivation of the father’s rights. The trial took place for many days over the course of several months. The father chose not to participate in the early days of the trial despite being free in the community. Though the father did miss a portion of the trial due to his incarceration, after DCF discovered his status, the state informed the court and the court took several steps to address the matter. The court opened the evidence, appointed counsel for the respondent, provided transcripts to counsel, permitted a continuance to allow adequate preparation for the continued trial, and allowed the respondent to call or recall witnesses and present evidence. Given these measures, the appellate court rejected the respondent’s claim that the only workable remedy was to grant him a new trial.

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