May 17, 2021

In Re Angela V. et al. (AC 44201)

Neglect, Motion for Child Testimony, Equitable Remedy of Vacatur

Takeaway: In order to challenge the denial of a motion based on due process grounds, all bases for a court’s denial should be challenged on appeal.

Mother appealed from the judgments adjudicating her minor children neglected. On appeal, she claimed that the court violated her rights to due process when it denied a motion for permission to call the two older children as witnesses that had been filed by Father. Specifically, Mother claimed that the trial court employed an improper standard of proof when it denied the motion, in part, on the ground that it would not be in the ‘‘best interests’’ of the children.

The Appellate Court dismissed Mother’s appeal as moot, as Mother failed to challenge all of the bases for the trial court’s denial of the motion.  The record is clear that the court relied on two grounds in denying the motion: that it was not in the best interests of the children and that it was untimely.  Because Mother failed to challenge this second independent basis for the court’s decision denying the motion, the Court here could not afford her any practical relief.

Moreover, the Appellate Court declined Mother’s request to vacate the part of the trial court’s judgment that found it would not be in the best interests of the children to testify, in order to clarify the correct legal standard that should be employed by the Superior Court in adjudicating motions for child testimony in a neglect proceeding. Mother provided no authority that would permit the Court here to use the equitable remedy of vacatur to essentially render an advisory opinion in an appeal that was otherwise moot.