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COA rejects challenge to circuit court’s discretionary termination order

Sheboygan County DHHS v. J.L., 2023AP1884, 1/3/24, District 2 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

In yet another appeal of the circuit court’s discretionary decision to terminate a parent’s rights, COA easily rejects J.L.’s invitation to reweigh the evidence.

J.L.’s appellate challenge is narrow. Having stipulated to grounds, his only argument on appeal is that the circuit court did not adequately weigh his “substantial relationship” with his daughter, Grace. (¶10). J.L. relies on his testimony from the dispositional hearing about his contacts with Grace and the social worker’s alleged interference with his attempts to have additional contact. (¶10). The problem, however, is that there was a credibility contest on this point and the circuit court already found J.L. incredible. (¶16).

A scrupulous review of the court’s oral ruling reveals that the circuit court appropriately considered the facts, applied the law, and reached a reasonable conclusion; under the deferential standard of review, it’s lights out for J.L. at this point. (¶21). Although the court is obviously sympathetic to J.L., it is not willing to disturb the circuit’s court’s decision on appeal. (¶22). Instead, J.L. is urged to take advantage of his “relatively unique position” wherein the adoptive resource has expressed a willingness to permit continued contact so long as he remains “clean and sober.” (Id.).

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