March 29, 2022

In re Riley B. (March 2022; SC 20613)

The proposed intervenor, Mother, filed a motion to intervene subsequent to the termination of her parental rights with respect to her minor child, in an effort to obtain a post-termination order of visitation with R. Mother’s parental rights had been terminated on the grounds that she failed to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation, as required by the applicable statute (§ 17a-112), and that termination was in the child’s best interest.

During the termination proceedings, Mother did not request visitation with the child in the event that her parental rights were terminated. Mother then appealed from the judgment terminating her parental rights, but did not request a stay of execution of that judgment pending appeal. More than six months after that appeal had been filed, Mother filed a motion for visitation, which the trial court denied, concluding that it did not have authority to order visitation after her parental rights were terminated and that, even if it had such authority, there was no basis for granting visitation under the circumstances. The trial court dismissed her subsequent motion to intervene on grounds of res judicata, in light of its decision on her motion for visitation. After the dismissal of Mother’s motion to intervene, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment terminating her parental rights.

On appeal from the trial court’s dismissal of Mother’s motion to intervene, the Appeals Court held that Mother’s appeal was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, given that she had no colorable claim to intervention in the child’s juvenile case as a matter of right.  Following the termination of her parental rights, Mother lacked a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the child’s juvenile case to warrant intervention as of right, notwithstanding any emotional bond between them, and, therefore, Mother failed to establish the party status necessary to support the Court’s jurisdiction to consider her appeal from the dismissal of her motion to intervene. 

Moreover, insofar as Mother claimed that, as the child’s biological mother, she was an appropriate person to represent the child’s interests, that claim ignored both the legal and factual implications of the termination of her parental rights, as her parental rights were terminated because there was clear and convincing evidence that she was unable or unwilling to put the child’s best interests ahead of her own, and that there was no reasonable prospect that that fact would change in the near future, and, accordingly, Mother was in no position to claim a right to represent the child’s best interests.