FROM THE POINSETT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 56JV-15-73]
HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE.
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Hall appeals the termination of her parental rights to X.H.,
K.H., and J.H. Hall's counsel has filed a motion to
withdraw and a no-merit brief pursuant to our rules and
caselaw, stating that there are no meritorious grounds to
support an appeal. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9 (2016);
Linker-Flores v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 359
Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004). Our court clerk mailed a
certified copy of counsel's motion and brief to
Hall's last known address informing her of her right to
file pro se points for reversal. Hall has not filed pro se
points for reversal, and the Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) has not filed a brief. We affirm the
court's decision to terminate Hall's parental rights
and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.
K.H., and J.H. were adjudicated dependent-neglected in 2015
and 2016 in some measure because Hall failed to appear at
court hearings. In any event, Hall did not appeal the
dependency-neglect adjudication orders.
May 2016 review order, the circuit court found that Hall had
cooperated with the case plan and court orders, visited on a
regular basis with the juveniles, and submitted to random
drug screens, but she had not remained drug free because a
hair-follicle test showed a history of amphetamines,
methamphetamine, and MDMA. The circuit court ordered Hall to
attend a second drug-and-alcohol assessment. In December
2016, the court entered a permanency-planning order by
stipulation of the parties. The court changed the case goal
to adoption and termination of parental rights. It found that
Hall had not complied with the case plan, failed to maintain
stable housing, and continued to test positive for illegal
drugs. DHS filed a termination petition in March 2017. Four
grounds were alleged against Hall: (1) twelve-month
failure-to-remedy; (2) willful failure to provide significant
support or maintain meaningful contact; (3) other factors
arising, and (4) aggravated circumstances. See Ark.
Code Ann. §§ 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a),
(ii)(a), (vii)(a), and (ix)(a).
The circuit court terminated Hall's parental rights,
determining that DHS had proved three grounds by clear and
convincing evidence and that termination was in the
children's best interest.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Cheney v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2012
Ark.App. 209, 396 S.W.3d 272. An order terminating parental
rights must be based on a finding by clear and convincing
evidence that the sought-after termination is in the
children's best interest. The circuit court must consider
the likelihood that the children will be adopted if the
parent's rights are terminated and the potential harm
that could be caused if the children are returned to a
parent. Harper v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
2011 Ark.App. 280, 378 S.W.3d 884. The circuit court must
also find that one of the grounds stated in the termination
statute is satisfied. Id. Clear and convincing
evidence is that degree of proof that will produce in the
fact-finder a firm conviction that the allegation has been
established. Pratt v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2012 Ark.App. 399, 413 S.W.3d 261. When the
burden of proving a disputed fact is by clear and convincing
evidence, we ask whether the circuit court's finding on
the disputed fact is clearly erroneous. Id. A
finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence
to support it, we are left with a definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been made. Id.
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) (2017). The petition must include
an argument section that lists all adverse rulings that the
parent received at the circuit court level and explain 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 appealing parent that were made during the hearing from
which the order on appeal arose. Ark. Sup. Ct. R.
correctly states in the argument portion of her brief that
only one ground of section 9-27-341(b)(3)(B) must be proved
to support a termination. Sims v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2015 Ark.App. 137, at 7. She explains that the
children were removed from Hall's custody largely because
she failed to appear for X.H.'s adjudication hearing.
adjudication orders were not appealed, and subsequent factors
arose after the children's removal: drug use,
interpersonal problems, and instability in housing,
employment, and transportation. Given the stipulation in the
record that it was in the best interest of her children for
the court to change the goal to adoption-and that Hall had
not complied with the case plan, continued to use drugs, and
did not show any stability throughout the case- the circuit
court's decision to terminate Hall's parental rights
on the other-factors-arising ground was not clearly
erroneous, and it would be frivolous to argue so.
counsel explains how the court's best-interest finding
was not clearly erroneous. The caseworker testified that a
relative had expressed interest in adopting the children and
was waiting on a home study. She also testified the three
children are adoptable, that there was someone interested in
adopting all three children, and there were no significant
barriers to adoption. When the termination hearing was
convened, Hall still struggled with a major drug-addiction
problem that two inpatient treatments had not abated, and she
had no home, transportation, or job. An addicted parent's
illegal drug use and instability may demonstrate a risk of
potential harm for the children. Robinson v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 262, at 5, 520
S.W.3d 322, 325 (continued drug use demonstrates potential
harm sufficient to support a best-interest finding in a
termination-of-parental-rights case). The record supports a
finding of potential harm. Counsel has adequately explained
why there is sufficient evidence to support the court's
termination decision and why an appeal would be wholly
counsel discusses all adverse rulings pursuant to Ark. Sup.
Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1)(A). She explains that the circuit court
correctly overruled Hall's hearsay objection to the
testimony of Wendell Harper, the assistant administrator of
Project New Start, who said that he received a report that
caused him to investigate whether Hall had acted
inappropriately while attending inpatient drug treatment. The
circuit court overruled trial counsel's hearsay objection
to the contents of the report via Harper's testimony, but
that hearsay objection was later waived when the report (DHS
Exhibit No. ...