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Bartelli v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

May 30, 2018

DYLON BARTELLI APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-16-329] HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, Dependency-Neglect Appellate Division, for appellant.

          Callie Corbyn, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellant. Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

         Dylon Bartelli's parental rights to his two children, A.B. and B.B., were terminated by the Washington County Circuit Court. Bartelli now appeals the termination. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Bartelli does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence in support of the circuit court's findings that termination of his parental rights was in the children's best interest. Bartelli also does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the statutory grounds the circuit court found to terminate his parental rights. He has therefore waived any appeal of those issues.

         Bartelli's sole issue on appeal is whether the circuit court's denial of his request for a continuance of the termination hearing was an abuse of discretion. "[A] trial court shall grant a motion for continuance only upon a showing of good cause . . . ." Smith v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 93 Ark.App. 395, 400, 219 S.W.3d 705, 708 (2005). The relevant standard of review here is abuse of discretion. Id. at 401, 219 S.W.3d at 708.

         On April 22, 2016, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) exercised emergency custody of A.B. and B.B. and filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency neglect on April 25, 2016. The circuit court entered an ex parte order formally placing the juveniles into DHS custody. On April 28, 2016, the circuit court held a probable-cause hearing. The circuit court maintained the juveniles in the custody of DHS. DHS subsequently filed two amended petitions to add a putative father and make corrections regarding the case style.

         On May 19, 2016, Timothy Klinger filed an entry of appearance in which he stated that he represented Bartelli and the interests of the paternal grandparents. He also filed a document entitled "Best Interests of the Children is with the Paternal Grandparents." On June 15, 2016, the circuit court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected based on neglect and parental unfitness.

         Klinger filed a document purporting to clarify and correct the record on September 8, 2016. On November 2, 2016, the circuit court held a review hearing and maintained the juveniles in the custody of DHS. Bartelli was not present at the review hearing, and the circuit court issued an arrest warrant for him based on his failure to appear. The circuit court also found that Bartelli was noncompliant, that he had not participated in any services, that he had not obtained safe and appropriate housing, that he had violently assaulted the children's mother approximately a week earlier, and that there was a no-contact order in place between him and the children.

         On April 4, 2017, the circuit court entered an order relieving Klinger from representing the interests of the paternal grandparents. Although the order made no mention of Bartelli, it stated that Klinger was "relieved of any and all responsibilities to the client or the court in this matter." Klinger did not appear again for the remainder of the case. On April 5, 2017, the circuit court held a permanency-planning hearing and maintained the juveniles in the custody of DHS. Bartelli did not appear for the hearing, and the circuit court found that Bartelli was not in compliance. Specifically, the circuit court outlined the many ways that Bartelli had failed to comply with the case plan and court orders and further stated that Bartelli had made "no progress" and that his whereabouts were unknown.

         The circuit court held a fifteen-month permanency-planning hearing on June 29, 2017. Bartelli was transported to the hearing from the Washington County jail. The circuit court found that Bartelli "ha[d] not maintained contact with DHS, ha[d] not completed a drug and alcohol assessment, ha[d] not submitted to drug screens, ha[d] not maintained stable employment with proof to DHS, ha[d] not demonstrated an ability to protect his children and keep them safe from harm. He is incarcerated today . . . . He served 6 months in Jail in Kansas- for Forgery and Burglary. He has pending charges in Arkansas and Missouri -and will be extradited to Missouri."

         On September 15, 2017, the circuit court held another review hearing. Bartelli was present for the hearing but remained incarcerated. Again, the circuit court found that he had made "no progress" in the case. The circuit court set the termination-of-parental-rights hearing for October 25, 2017, at 8:00 a.m. and appointed counsel to represent Bartelli. The circuit court then issued a separate written order, specifically mandating Bartelli's appearance in court for the termination hearing on October 25, 2017, at 8:00 a.m. The order provided contact information for Bartelli's attorney and specifically noted that Bartelli was provided a copy of the review-hearing order. DHS filed a petition to terminate parental rights on October 3, 2017. On October 19, 2017, Bartelli filed a response to the petition, which included a motion to dismiss, a motion for modification of visitation, and a motion for continuance. DHS responded that Bartelli's request to continue the termination hearing should be denied as it "would result in undue prejudice as these children have already been in [DHS] care for seventeen (17) months."

         On October 25, 2017, the circuit court held a termination-of-parental-rights hearing. Bartelli, without explanation, did not appear at the hearing. The circuit court denied Bartelli's request for a continuance and proceeded with the termination hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, at 10:23 a.m., Bartelli made an attempt to call into the hearing but, based on the record before us, there is no explanation as to why he was not present in court or why he called in almost two and a half hours after the hearing was scheduled to begin. The circuit court directed that Bartelli be given his attorney's office number for him to call her later. The circuit court ultimately terminated Bartelli's parental rights as to the juveniles based on three grounds: (1) the failure-to-remedy ground, (2) the subsequent-factors ground, and (3) the little-likelihood ground. The circuit ...


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