FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66JV-16-284] HONORABLE JIM D. SPEARS, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
W. GRUBER, Chief Judge
Francesca Mercado appeals from the Sebastian County Circuit
Court's order denying her petition for a second
medical-expert review. We affirm.
17, 2016, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)
exercised a 72hour hold on three-month-old A.M. after a
medical examination at Arkansas Children's Hospital
revealed bone fractures, head trauma, brain damage, and a
subdural hematoma. A probable-cause order was entered on
August 17, 2016, continuing custody of A.M. with DHS. The
court held a hearing on September 12, 2016, after DHS filed a
motion to terminate reunification services. Dr. Karen Farst,
a specialist in child-abuse pediatrics who examined A.M. at
Children's, testified at the hearing that A.M.'s head
injury was a "near fatality" and that her injuries
were "indicative of physical abuse." Following the
hearing, the circuit court adjudicated A.M.
dependent-neglected with the stated goal of adoption, and
granted DHS's motion to terminate reunification services.
The court entered a separate order denying appellant's
petition for a second medical-expert opinion. The court
attached Rule 54(b) certificates to both orders. This appeal
juvenile proceedings, the standard of review on appeal is de
novo, although we do not reverse unless the circuit
court's findings are clearly erroneous. Metcalf v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2015 Ark.App. 402, at 1,
466 S.W.3d 426, 427. A finding is clearly erroneous when,
although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court
on the entire evidence is left with a definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been committed. Id. We
give due deference to the superior position of the circuit
court to view and judge the credibility of the witnesses.
Coleman v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2010
Ark.App. 851, at 10, 379 S.W.3d 778, 784.
argues that, because DHS's case was based largely on
expert testimony, she should have been permitted to present
an alternative theory of how A.M.'s injuries occurred.
She argues that she suffered prejudice by the court's
denial of her request because she was denied an opportunity
to present a defense. She likens her case to Ake v.
Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), in which the United States
Supreme Court held that the basic tools of an adequate
defense or appeal shall be provided to defendants who cannot
afford to pay for them. She argues that, because the Arkansas
Supreme Court has held that the deprivation of parental
rights is similar to the deprivation of liberty in criminal
cases, the holding in Ake should be extended to
indigent parents in DHS cases. Her argument is couched as an
ineffective- assistance-of-counsel argument in that she
contends that her counsel was "hampered" because
she could not afford to pay for a second opinion regarding
the likely cause of A.M.'s injuries. Appellant cites no
convincing legal authority, nor does she make a convincing
argument that reversal is mandated under the circumstances of
this case. Assignments of error unsupported by convincing
argument or authority will not be considered on appeal unless
it is apparent without further research that the point is
well taken. Rodriguez v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 360 Ark. 180, 187-88, 200 S.W.3d 431, 436
extent appellant makes an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel
argument on appeal, her argument is not preserved for
appellate review. We will not consider a claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel as a point on appeal unless the issue
was first raised in the circuit court and the facts and
circumstances surrounding the claim were fully developed in
the circuit court. Taffner v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2016 Ark. 231, at 10, 493 S.W.3d 319, 326. To
the extent she argues that her rights of due process and
fundamental fairness were violated, those arguments are not
preserved for appellate review. An issue is not preserved for
appellate review if it was not presented to the circuit court
at the earliest opportunity. Rose v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 2010 Ark.App. 668, at 2. We will not
address arguments that were not raised to the circuit court.
Harbin v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2014
Ark.App. 715, at 11, 451 S.W.3d 231, 237.
Gladwin and Vaught, JJ., agree.