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Case No. 19-1495

In the Interest of L.C., A.S., and V.F., Minor Children

M.F., Mother-Appellant

Attorney for Appellant Mother

Elena Greenberg

Attorney for Appellee State

Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General

Guardian ad Litem

Michael Sorci

Court of Appeals

Court of Appeals Opinion

Opinion Number:
Date Published:
Apr 29, 2020

            Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan Cox, District Associate Judge.  AFFIRMED.  Considered by Bower, C.J., and Greer and Ahlers, JJ.  Opinion by Ahlers, J.  Special Concurrence by Greer, J.  (13 pages)

            A mother appeals the order terminating her parental rights to her three minor children, A.S., L.C., and V.F.   She argues the evidence submitted was insufficient to terminate her parental rights, termination is not in the children’s best interest, and the permissive factors in Iowa Code section 232.116(3) preclude terminating her parental rights.  She further argues the court appointed special advocate (CASA) had a conflict of interest that deprived her of her right to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution.  OPINION HOLDS: Sufficient evidence supported termination.  Termination was in the children’s best interest.  The permissive factors did not warrant declining to terminate.  The mother has not shown she was denied due process of law by the CASA’s conflict of interest because she has not shown she was actually prejudiced by the conflict.  SPECIAL CONCURRENCE ASSERTS: I specially concur in the majority decision to terminate the mother’s parental rights.  I believe the mother has the right to raise the issue of the court appointed special advocate’s (CASA) conflict of interest, and any person charged with authority to recommend termination, as the CASA did in her report, cannot avoid a conflict if he or she also wishes to be considered for adoption.  However, because substantial evidence beyond the CASA’s detailed reports existed to support the decision to terminate and the mother failed to show prejudice from the conflict created by the CASA, I agree we should affirm the termination of the mother's rights.  I only write separately to suggest it makes little difference who created the conflict, as the potential harm to the process exists in spite of the distinction. 

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