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In re A.K. Summary

 

 

Opinion published March 16, 2016

 

Factual Background

 

In In re A.K. the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services requested jurisdiction for failure to protect.  The mother had a history of drug abuse and at the time of the child’s birth she tested positive for amphetamine. Father had pending criminal charges for possession of a controlled substance and possession of controlled paraphernalia.  When the social worker investigated the abuse allegations Father told her he would no longer talk to her or comply with what she asked.  The juvenile court ordered Father to drug test and failure to do so would constitute a positive test.  Despite the order, Father failed to drug test on multiple occasions.

 

Trial Court’s Order

 

At a contested jurisdiction/disposition hearing both Father and Mother failed to appear.  The court denied Mother reunification services.  As to father, his failure to test and criminal charges related to drugs sustained the finding he was a substance abuser.  The court removed the child from both parents’ custody and ordered reunification services for Father only.  Father appealed and contended there was insufficient evidence to show he was a substance abuse and unable to care for his child. 

 

Decision on Appeal

 

The trial court did not reach the merits of Father’s insufficiency argument, rather the court of appeal applied the disentitlement doctrine.  The case warranted the doctrine due to Father’s egregious conduct that frustrated the juvenile court from carrying out its orders.  The record showed Father threatened the social workers with physical harm which necessitated police intervention.  He refused to answer questions.  Told the social worker he would not do anything she requested.  At the detention hearing he left abruptly.  Finally, he failed to comply with court-ordered drug tests even though Mother had stated those around her abused drugs.  The court of appeal affirmed. 

 

Analysis

 

This case demonstrates the so-called “disentitlement doctrine” is not limited to cases in which the appellant is in violation of the order from which he or she appeals, but rather may also apply to cases in which the appellant has violated orders other than the one from which the appeal has been taken. Moreover, the doctrine also encompasses disobedience of orders from non-California jurisdictions.  Finally a formal contempt of court is unnecessary.

 

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