FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-14-575] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE
Miller, Miller & Churchwell, PLLC, by: Joseph Churchwell,
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
Stricklin appeals from the order of the Pulaski County
Circuit Court denying her petition to intervene in the
dependency-neglect case involving her great-grandson, LE,
after the parental rights of both of LE's parents were
terminated. Stricklin argues that the petition to intervene
should have been granted to allow her to pursue adoption of
LE and to enforce "sibling rights" under the
juvenile code. We affirm.
dependency-neglect case began in April 2014 when the
Department of Human Services (DHS) removed three-year-old LE
from the custody of his mother, Jordan Goff, due to her drug
usage. During the case, Stricklin's grandson, Jesse
Everett, was determined to be LE's father. The couple
have two other children who were in the care of relatives.
Goff reported that six-year-old CE had been living with
Everett's aunt and uncle in Texas since August 2013, and
twenty-one-month-old RE had been in Stricklin's care for
several months. LE was placed in foster care, and the court
ordered for the other children to remain with their relatives
and for the relatives to seek guardianships. Stricklin
obtained a guardianship over RE in December 2014.
Reunification with Goff was initially the goal of LE's
case, but ultimately the goal was changed to adoption.
November 2015, the circuit court terminated the parental
rights of both Everett and Goff. Everett appealed the
termination. On June 16, 2016, while Everett's
appeal was pending, Stricklin filed a petition in the
dependency-neglect case to adopt LE. The petition stated that
Stricklin had custody of RE, that CE was currently living
with her and would likely remain in her home permanently, and
that granting the adoption would facilitate continued
familial relationships and would be in the best interest of
all the children. Stricklin claimed that she had previously
sought custody of LE but that DHS had rejected her and
excluded her from proceedings after she requested a DNA test
to confirm her relation to LE. On June 21, 2016, the circuit
court entered an order directing Stricklin to file her
adoption petition as a separate case since Stricklin was not
a party in the dependency-neglect case.
of filing her petition in a new case, on July 28, 2016,
Stricklin filed a petition to intervene in the
dependency-neglect case and for enforcement of Arkansas Code
Annotated section 9-28-1003 (Repl. 2015). She alleged that
she was entitled to intervene as a matter of right pursuant
to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) and pursue her
petition for adoption. She also claimed that LE's rights
under section 9-28-1003 had been violated and that sibling
visitation should be ordered. DHS responded to
Stricklin's petition to intervene, asserting that she had
no right to intervene and that intervention was not necessary
to pursue adoption.
September 21, 2016, the circuit court entered an order
denying the petition to intervene and for enforcement of
section 9-28-1003. The court found that Stricklin's
petition, which was filed twenty-seven months after LE had
been placed in foster care and eight months after parental
rights had been terminated, was not timely filed. The court
found that other parties would suffer prejudice if Stricklin
was allowed to intervene so late in the proceedings and that
she offered no reason for her delay. The court noted that
Stricklin was not deprived of a remedy because an adoption
petition could be considered on its own merits without her
becoming a party to the dependency-neglect case. Regarding
her claims under section 9-28-1003, the court found that
Stricklin cited no authority to allow the court to enforce a
code section on behalf of a nonparty. Stricklin now appeals
are two means by which a nonparty may intervene in a lawsuit:
as a matter of right and by permission. Ark. R. Civ. P. 24
(2016). Stricklin asserted that she was entitled to intervene
as a matter of right pursuant to Rule 24(a), which provides
Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to
intervene in an action: (1) when a statute of this state
confers an unconditional right to intervene; or (2) when the
applicant claims an interest relating to the property or
transaction which is the subject of the action and he is so
situated that the disposition of the action may as a
practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that
interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately
represented by existing parties.
Ark. R. Civ. P. 24(a).
a motion to intervene is permissive or as a matter of right,
the motion must be timely. See Ark. R. Civ. P.
24(a)-(b). The timeliness question is a matter within the
discretion of the circuit court, which will be reversed only
for an abuse of that discretion. Valois Dynasty, LLC v.
City Nat'l Bank, 2016 Ark.App. 140, 486 S.W.3d 205.
Timeliness is determined from all the circumstances, with the
following factors being considered: (1) how far the
proceedings have progressed; (2) any prejudice to other
parties caused by the delay; and (3) the reason for the
delay. Id. Lack of notice is a factor that may be
considered. Id. After a final judgment has been
entered, intervention is generally allowed only upon a strong
showing of entitlement or a demonstration of unusual and
compelling circumstances. Id.
argues that her petition to intervene was not untimely and
was not filed postjudgment because the adoption phase of a
dependency-neglect case does not arise until after
termination of parental rights and the exhaustion of appeals.
She claims that she timely asserted her rights before LE was
even legally available for adoption. Stricklin contends that
if her petition is considered to be filed postjudgment, there
are unusual and compelling circumstances that entitle her to
intervention, namely that she tried to have LE placed with