In re Nasia B.

Connecticut Appellate Court

98 Conn. App. 319 (2006)

October 10, 2006

In In re Nasia B., the Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision dismissing the state’s termination of parental rights petition for failure to establish a prima facie case. The Court also reversed the trial court’s sua sponte decision to revoke DCF’s custody of the minor child and place the child at home under protective supervision.

Based on the Appellate Court’s recounting, the parents suffered a history of substance abuse, mental health breakdowns and incarceration. Until the termination petitions were filed, the parents had made sporadic efforts to comply with the court ordered specific steps. The state sought to terminate the parents’ rights on the grounds that the father abandoned the child and the mother failed to sufficiently rehabilitate. The parents’ compliance with services and visits subsequently increased.

The termination petition went to trial. At the conclusion of the state’s case-in-chief, the respondent parents orally moved to dismiss. The court granted the motion and also rejected the state’s permanency plan on the ground that the plan was not in the child’s best interest. The court ordered the parties to return in one day to explain the plan for reunification. The following day, after conversing with counsel and questioning the DCF case supervisor, the court ordered that the child’s commitment to DCF be opened and that DCF return the child to her parents under protective supervision.

The Appellate Court held that the dismissal was inappropriate because the trial court did not apply the correct standard in ruling on the parents’ oral motion. Rather than consider whether the state put forth sufficient evidence that, if believed, would establish a prima facie case, the trial court weighed the credibility of the state’s evidence and ruled accordingly. When a motion to dismiss is filed, the evidence must be accepted as true and all inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Here, the trial court stated that it issued its findings after “having reviewed the evidence presented and assessed the credibility of the witnesses.” The Appellate Court held that the state had indeed presented a prima facie case that grounds existed for termination of parental rights.

Secondly, the Court held that it was improper for the trial court to sua sponte revoke the child’s commitment to DCF. Pursuant to the plain language of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-129 (m) and (o), as well as the requirements of due process, commitment may only be revoked after written motions are filed.

The Appellate Court did not decide whether evidence supported revocation of commitment or termination of parental rights.

The case may be found on the Judicial Branch website

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