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Challenges to TPR rejected

Racine County HSD v. S.M.F., 2019AP2346 & 2019AP2347, District 2, 7/15/20 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

S.M.F.’s challenges the order terminating her parental rights, alleging trial counsel was ineffective and that the circuit court should have granted her mistrial motion. The court of appeals affirms.

The TPR petition alleged, and the jury found, two grounds for termination—continuing CHIPS and failure to assume parental responsibility. (¶2). S.M.F. argues her lawyer was ineffective regarding the jury instruction on the continuing CHIPS ground, but fails to develop an argument her lawyer was ineffective for failing to call witnesses on the failure-to-assume ground. Because of the lack of a developed argument counsel was ineffective on both grounds, her ineffective claim fails. (¶¶7-9).

S.M.F.’s mistrial claim is based on a question the state asked a witness about drug activity in S.M.F.’s home. Her lawyer objected and the objection was sustained, so the witness never answered the question and there were no further references to drug activity at trial. Her lawyer moved for a mistrial but declined a curative instruction, though the jury got the usual instruction not to draw any inferences to unanswered questions. S.M.F. fails to develop an argument that this incident was sufficiently prejudicial to warrant a new trial, so the court rejects it. (¶¶10-15).


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