Two Court of Special Appeals Wins in the Southern Maryland Office
Senior Staff Attorney Marsha Williams scored two wins in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
The first case in April involved a couple (Mr. and Mrs. A.) who sought to overturn a St. Mary's Circuit Court decision that found they did not have standing to seek guardianship of an 11 year-old child. The parental rights of the child, who was found to be a Child in Need of Assistance
(CINA),were terminated in 2010. Mr. and Mrs. A. who lived in Virginia, sought to adopt a special needs child and began to visit with the CINA
client. The Department of Social Services terminated the visits from the couple finding that they were not an appropriate adoptive resource.
Mr. and Mrs. A. sought an administrative review that was denied and then sought guardianship of the CINA client through the Estates and Trusts Article. The Court of Special Appeals denied their efforts to be appointed guardian and held that the purposes of the Estates and Trusts article are distinct from the purposes of the CINA/guardianship statutes. Ultimately, the Court's decisions maintained the safety and well-being of the child.
In the second case in May, Marsha represented two children, 8 and 10, whose adoptive parents sought to overturn a Charles County Circuit Court decision that found them unfit and terminated their parental rights at the time of the hearing.
The parents adopted the two children through the Charles County Department of Social Services (DSS) in 2010 and the children were removed from their care in June 2013 due to neglect. The adoptive parents argued that the trial court erred in finding them unfit and that DSS failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify the children with them. The father further argued that the lower court violated his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination by finding that his refusal to admit to abuse warranted termination of parental rights. The Court of Special Appeals found (1) that the evidence supported the trial court's finding of parental unfitness and such finding was not clearly erroneous; (2) DSS made reasonable efforts to facilitate reunification while abiding by its paramount duty to protect the health and safety of the children; and (3) any adverse inference from the father's decision not to testify at the
guardianship hearing was not in violation of the father's Fifth Amendment rights. Thus, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court noting that the trial court "plainly did not abuse its discretion" in finding that termination of the parents' parental rights
in the children was warranted.