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“Egregious” conduct justified default of TPR grounds trial

State v. K.C., 2017AP32, District 1, 4/25/17 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The trial court properly exercised its discretion when, as a sanction for “egregious” behavior, it defaulted K.C. at the grounds-phase of the trial on the TPR petition filed against her.

¶31     …. The record and reasonable inferences from K.C.’s words and conduct support the trial court’s sanction of striking the default posture to the grounds-phase trial. K.C.’s behavior on April 11 and 12, 2016, was egregious. After persistent denials of the need for a comprehensive evaluation, on the day set for trial she finally agreed to one. In granting a one-day adjournment of the trial, the trial court carefully warned her of the default consequence if she failed to follow through with the evaluation. She acknowledged the warning on the record and denied any intention of manipulating an adjournment. She clearly knew that she was having a trial the next day, unless she presented a concrete plan for a comprehensive evaluation. Then on April 12 K.C. failed to come to court, told her lawyer that she was checking herself into the hospital that morning and did not do so. In granting the State’s motion to strike her contest posture as a sanction, the trial court concluded that her statement to her lawyer was a lie and was made to manipulate an adjournment. The court drew that reasonable inference from the facts. A lie to the circuit court can constitute egregious behavior. See, e.g., … State v. Yvette A., No. 2012AP548, unpublished slip op. ¶18 (WI App August 14, 2012) (affirming default sanction imposed for a party’s pattern of checking herself into psychiatric hospitals to delay court proceedings).

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¶34     Additionally, K.C. admitted the second basis for the trial court’s sanction and egregiousness finding—the violation of the no contact order on April 7 when K.C. went to the foster mother’s home. K.C. tried to minimize her blatant violation of the no contact order as “not intentional” in that she just missed her son and wanted to enroll him in Packer camp. But her excuse further demonstrates the depth of her attempts to manipulate the system by ignoring the rules.

K.C. also argues the trial court improperly appointed a GAL without first obtaining a competency evaluation. The court of appeals holds that § 48.235(1)(a) clearly authorizes a trial court to appoint a GAL “in any appropriate matter,” and the trial court here properly exercised its discretion in appointing a GAL for K.C.. (¶¶36-45).

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