FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, EIGHTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-13-1382] HONORABLE WILEY A. BRANTON, JR., JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge
Pulaski County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights
of appellant Miz Erica Lunon as to her daughters, M.L. and
H.A. Lunon's counsel has filed a motion to be relieved
and a no-merit brief pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule
6-9(i) and Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human
Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004), arguing
that there are no meritorious arguments for reversal. Lunon
has filed pro se points.
addressing counsel's request to be relieved and the
contention that this appeal has no merit, we briefly address
the history of this case and the law applicable to the
termination of parental rights. The Arkansas Department of
Human Services (DHS) removed M.L. and H.A. from Lunon's
custody in November 2013 based on allegations that Lunon had
punched three-year-old H.A. in the face. Lunon had a history
with DHS prior to this incident, having had her parental
rights to an older child, M.L.,  involuntarily terminated in
2009. Based on the allegations of abuse to H.A.,
DHS filed a petition for dependency-neglect with the circuit
court. The circuit court adjudicated dependency-neglect in
February 2014 based on the physical abuse Lunon had inflicted
on H.A. and on the risk of physical harm to M.L. Initially,
the court set the goal of the case as reunification;
eventually, however, the court changed the goal to
termination of parental rights.
termination of parental rights is a two-step process that
requires the circuit court to find that the parent is unfit
and that termination is in the best interest of the child.
T.J. v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 329 Ark.
243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997); Smith v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 753, 431 S.W.3d 364. We now
turn our attention to the circuit court's analysis of
this two-step process.
first step requires proof of one or more of the statutory
grounds for termination. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B) (Repl. 2015). Here, DHS's termination
petition alleged numerous grounds, including the ground that
Lunon had previously had her parental rights involuntarily
terminated as to a sibling of the juveniles. See
Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(4). The circuit
court found by clear and convincing evidence that this ground
second step requires consideration of whether the termination
of parental rights is in the children's best interest.
Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(A). This includes
consideration of the likelihood that they will be adopted and
the potential harm caused by returning custody of them to the
parent. Smith, supra. Based on testimony
from a DHS caseworker,  the court found the children were
adoptable. Concerning the potential harm caused by return of
custody of the children to Lunon, the court concluded that
Lunon perpetrated the physical abuse on H.A. Despite this
conclusion, Lunon refused to accept responsibility for the
abuse, had ongoing anger-management issues, and failed to
comply with the case plan. The court found by clear and
convincing evidence that the termination of parental rights
was in the best interest of the children. Lunon timely
appealed, and counsel has submitted this no-merit brief.
dependency-neglect cases, if, after studying the record and
researching the law, appellant's counsel determines that
the appellant has no meritorious basis for appeal, then
counsel may file a no-merit petition and move to withdraw.
Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1) (2015). The petition must include
an argument section listing all rulings adverse to the
appellant made by the circuit court on all objections,
motions, and requests made by the party at the hearing from
which the appeal arose and explaining why each adverse ruling
is not a meritorious ground for reversal. Ark. Sup. Ct. R.
6-9(i)(1)(A). The petition must also include an abstract and
addendum containing all rulings adverse to the appellant made
at the hearing from which the order on appeal arose. Ark.
Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1)(B). See also Cheney v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2012 Ark.App. 209, at 7, 396
S.W.3d 272, 278-77.
brief contains an abstract and addendum of the circuit-court
proceedings, discusses the adverse rulings and the evidence
supporting the termination of Lunon's parental rights,
and explains why there is no meritorious ground for reversal.
We have reviewed the brief and the record in this case and
agree there is no basis on which to advance a meritorious
argument for reversal.
pro se points, Lunon asks this court to deny counsel's
motion to be relieved "because I am entitled to
representation on appeal." She also asks the court to
"order the parties to brief the issue of whether counsel
representing me in a termination proceeding should be
required under Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738
(1967), where there appears to be no meritorious grounds for
[an] appeal." She also requests that she "be given
a rightous [sic] hearing in which all evidence is
set forth before the judge" so "he or she can make
a decision based on all facts that pertain to this case.
Instead of just solely on hearsay." Lunon misapprehends
the nature of appellate review and the no-merit process.
Lunon had a full hearing before the circuit court, and
counsel's brief conforms with our rules regarding
no-merit briefs. We therefore find no merit to Lunon's
pro se points.
motion to ...