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TPR – Plea to Grounds

Dane Co. DHS v. Angela M. K., 2012AP579, District 4, 5/24/12

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Angela M.K.: Eileen A. Hirsch, SPD, Madison Appellate; case activity

The court rejects Angela’s challenge to her termination-of-rights plea to grounds. She argued she didn’t fully understand the CHIPS element, namely  that “there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not meet [conditions for children’s return] within the 9-month period following the fact-finding hearing,” § 48.415(2)(a)3.

¶12      On appeal, Angela complains:  “It was her reliance on her attorney’s advice that the nine-month period had begun four months earlier, that led to her non-understanding.”  Angela refers to her attorney’s advice that the nine-month “substantial likelihood” period ran from the time of filing of the termination petitions.  The nine-month period in fact runs from the grounds hearing, see Wis. Stat. § 48.415(2)(a)3., which was approximately four months after the petitions were filed.

¶14      In sum, the circuit court relied on evidence that Angela was affirmatively told the correct time frame at a deposition and on the fact that Angela was not credible when asserting that she did not read and understand the correct information.  And, again, Angela did not specifically testify that she relied on the incorrect advice from her attorney.  Under these circumstances, I am not persuaded that the circuit court erred when concluding that the County had met its burden.

Waukesha Cnty. v. Steven H., 2000 WI 28, ¶42, 233 Wis. 2d 344, 607 N.W.2d 607, cited, for general principle that if parent makes prima facie showing that plea-colloquy was inadequate, burden shifts to county to prove validity of plea by clear and convincing evidence.

TPR – Disposition Procedure following Plea 

The court rejects Angela’s argument that the trial court violated §  48.422(3) by not hearing testimony in support of the allegations in the petition. Steven H., applied.

¶19      The circumstances here are different.  At the dispositional hearing, the social worker assigned to Gabriel’s and Adrianna’s cases testified.  As part of that testimony, the social worker confirmed that she had prepared two reports, one for each child, and that “all of the information” in those reports was “true and correct.”  Those reports were then admitted as exhibits.  Among other things, those reports contain detailed facts about the circumstances underlying the termination allegations.  Angela does not dispute that the facts in the reports adequately support the allegations in the petitions.

¶20      Thus, the reports here were not “standing alone” in the sense discussed in Steven H., where the court simply took judicial notice of a report.  …

¶21      Further, Angela’s argument fails for another reason—she does not develop a prejudice argument. …

¶22      In concluding that there was no prejudice warranting reversal, the Steven H. court explained that the parent did not challenge the factual allegations in the petition.  See id., ¶59.  Angela does not address this aspect of Steven H.’s discussion.  More to the point, Angela does not assert that the factual allegations in the petitions here were not accurate.  Thus, Angela provides no reason to think that further testimony would have mattered.

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