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Greenhaw v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

June 1, 2016



Tabitha B. McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

Jerald A. Sharum, County Legal Operations, for appellee.

Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor child.


In this no-merit appeal, the Boone County Circuit Court terminated appellant Hope Greenhaw's parental rights to her daughter, F.S., on November 1, 2015. Appellant filed a notice of appeal on November 20, 2015. Counsel for appellant filed a motion to withdraw as counsel on appeal and a no-merit brief pursuant to Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004), and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i) (2015), asserting that, other than the termination order itself, which is fully addressed in the brief, there were no adverse rulings to appellant and explaining why there are no nonfrivolous arguments to support an appeal. After being served by certified mail with the motion to withdraw and a copy of the no-merit brief, appellant filed pro se points for reversal, and the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and the attorney ad litem filed a joint responsive brief. We affirm the order terminating appellant's parental rights and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.

I. Law

In Linker-Flores, the Arkansas Supreme Court described the procedure for withdrawing as counsel from a termination-of-parental-rights appeal:

[A]ppointed counsel for an indigent parent on a first appeal from an order terminating parental rights may petition this court to withdraw as counsel if, after a conscientious review of the record, counsel can find no issue of arguable merit for appeal. Counsel's petition must be accompanied by a brief discussing any arguably meritorious issue for appeal. The indigent party must be provided with a copy of the brief and notified of her right to file points for reversal within thirty days. If this court determines, after a full examination of the record, that the appeal is frivolous, the court may grant counsel's motion and dismiss the appeal.

Linker-Flores, 359 Ark. at 141, 194 S.W.3d at 747–48. Subsequently the supreme court elaborated on the appellate court's role in reviewing a petition to withdraw in a termination-of-parental-rights appeal, holding that when the trial court has taken the prior record into consideration in its decision, a "conscientious review of the record" requires the appellate court to review all pleadings and testimony in the case on the question of the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the decision to terminate and that only adverse rulings arising at the termination hearing need be addressed in the no-merit appeal from the prior orders in the case. Lewis v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 364 Ark. 243, 217 S.W.3d 788 (2005).

Termination-of-parental-rights cases are reviewed de novo. Hune v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2010 Ark.App. 543. Grounds for termination of parental rights must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, which is that degree of proof that will produce in the finder of fact a firm conviction of the allegation sought to be established. Hughes v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2010 Ark.App. 526. The appellate inquiry is whether the trial court's finding that the disputed fact was proven by clear and convincing evidence is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997).

II. Facts

F.S., born December 23, 2004, was taken into protective custody by DHS on April 1, 2014, after F.S. and appellant had appeared in court for a family-in-need-of-services (FINS) hearing due to F.S.'s numerous school absences. At that hearing, appellant stated that she had been diagnosed with a mental illness and anxiety issues and had not been taking any of her medications. She said that her "weak mental state" was the reason F.S. had been absent from school. That afternoon, DHS workers visited appellant's home and found it to be in poor condition with toys, clothes, and food scattered around the living room, and a dish towel covered with green feces was discovered in plain sight. Appellant would not submit to a drug screen and stated, "I only have a little bit to live and I am trying to stay off my medication so I can be the best mother to my children." Appellant was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor, first degree, based on police finding appellant's youngest child in the street, unsupervised. [1]

A petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect was filed on April 4, 2014, and the circuit court signed an ex parte order granting emergency custody to DHS that same day. A probable-cause order was filed on April 29, 2014, following a hearing held on April 7, 2014. Appellant was ordered to ...

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