FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-14-513] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE
Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Jonathan R.
Streit, for appellant.
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
LARRYD. VAUGHT, Judge
an appeal from the order of the Sebastian County Circuit
Court that terminated appellant Kimberly Bentley's
parental rights in her daughter, C.J. (born July 3, 2014).
Bentley's counsel has filed a motion to withdraw 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), stating
that there are no issues of arguable merit for appeal.
Counsel lists the termination decision and fifteen
evidentiary rulings as the circuit court's adverse
rulings and offers an explanation as to why those rulings are
not meritorious grounds for reversal. Bentley was provided a
copy of her counsel's brief and motion, and she was
afforded an opportunity to file pro se points for reversal.
She filed pro se points, and the Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) filed a response to the pro se points. Having
reviewed this appeal under the proper standards, we hold the
record reveals extensive adverse rulings that counsel
abstracted but did not list and explain why each adverse
ruling was not a meritorious ground for reversal as required
by Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i)(1)(A). Therefore, we
deny the motion to withdraw as counsel and order rebriefing.
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.
novo review of this case reveals that the termination hearing
encompassed six days: November 18, 21, 22, December 2, 8, and
13, 2016. The record contains eleven volumes. Six of the
volumes contain hearing transcripts. In two of the transcript
volumes (564 pages), there are thirty-six evidentiary rulings
that were adverse to Bentley. Counsel has abstracted these
thirty-six adverse rulings but has failed to list and
explain, in the no-merit brief, why each adverse ruling is
not a meritorious ground for reversal-a violation of Arkansas
Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i)(1)(A).
Sartin v. State, 2010 Ark. 16, at 1, 362 S.W.3d 877,
878, the supreme court held that the failure to list and
discuss all adverse rulings in a no-merit
termination-of-parental-rights case does not automatically
require rebriefing, if the ruling would clearly not present a
meritorious ground for reversal. We decline, however, to
overlook the omissions in the instant case due to the sheer
volume of them. Therefore, we deny counsel's motion to
withdraw and order rebriefing. We direct counsel to list and
explain why the thirty-six adverse rulings in two of the
transcript volumes of the record, omitted from counsel's
brief, do not present meritorious grounds for reversal. We do
not limit counsel to these thirty-six adverse rulings. There
are four other volumes of the record (an additional 604
pages) that contain hearing transcripts and that likely
contain additional evidentiary rulings that were adverse to
Bentley. Therefore, we order counsel to review these
additional volumes and list and explain all other adverse
rulings contained therein.
not direct that counsel's substituted brief be on a merit
or no-merit basis; rather, we leave that to counsel's
professional judgment. In either case, we order counsel to
submit a substituted brief within thirty days of this
opinion. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 4-2(b)(3). If counsel chooses to
again file an Anders brief, the clerk of this court
will forward the brief to Bentley so that, within thirty
days, she will have the opportunity to raise any points she
so chooses in accordance with Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 4-3(k)(2), and
DHS shall be afforded the opportunity to file a responsive
to withdraw denied; rebriefing ordered.
Abramson and Hixson, JJ., agree.