November 1, 2019

In re Anthony L. et al.
194 Conn. App. 111
Termination of Parental Rights
October 2019

Mother appealed the trial court’s judgment terminating her parental rights to three of her children.  At trial, the court had found that mother had failed to achieve such a degree of personal rehabilitation as would allow her to assume a responsible position in the children’s lives within a reasonable time.  On appeal, mother claimed – for the first time – that the court violated both her and her children’s substantive due process rights when, in its analysis of the children’s best interests, it failed to determine whether DCF’s proposed permanency plan, i.e. adoption at an unknown point in time, would secure a more permanent and stable life for them, compared to that which she could provide if she were given the time to rehabilitate herself.  Because such a claim was not raised at trial, however, the Appellate Court ultimately declined to review it on appeal. 

In so deciding, the Appellate Court reviewed the necessary prongs for review of a constitutional error not preserved at trial.  Under State v. Golding, 213 Conn. 233 (1989), all of the following conditions must be met for a party to prevail on such an issue: (1) the record must be adequate to review the alleged claim of error; (2) the claim must be of constitutional magnitude alleging the violation of a fundamental right; (3) the alleged constitutional violation exists and deprived the respondent of a fair trial; and (4) if subject to a harmless error analysis, the state failed to demonstrate the harmlessness of the alleged constitutional violation beyond a reasonable doubt.  In the absence of any one of these conditions, such claim should fail.

Here, the Appellate Court focused on the first prong of Golding.  At trial, DCF had proven that the children’s best interests were served by living with their maternal grandmother.  On appeal, however, mother asserted that the record contained no evidence relevant to the details of the post-termination likelihood of permanency for each of the children, specifically where their grandmother may eventually not be able to continue to provide a home for them.  However, the Appellate Court was unable to find any evidence in the record that mother presented about when this might occur, or why the children would not then be able to transition to fictive kin, in accordance with DCF’s plan.  As a result, the Court ultimately declined to review the mother’s Golding claim, because of her failure to satisfy the first prong of the Golding requirements.