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Newmy v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

November 28, 2018

TRACHICA NEWMY APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA DISTRICT [NO. 47BJV-16-169] HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE

          Leah Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

         One brief only.

          BART F. VIRDEN, JUDGE

         Appellant Trachica Newmy appeals from the Mississippi County Circuit Court's termination of her parental rights to A.N.1 (DOB: 1-16-2010) and A.N.2 (DOB: 4-2-2015). Her counsel has filed a no-merit brief and motion to withdraw as counsel 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), alleging that Newmy has no meritorious basis for an appeal. Newmy was provided with a copy of counsel's no-merit brief and motion to withdraw and was notified of her right to file pro se points for reversal. Newmy has not filed any points. We affirm the termination of parental rights and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.

         I. Procedural History

         On October 26, 2016, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect with respect to Newmy's children. Attached to the petition was an affidavit in which a family-service worker for DHS attested that a call was made to the child-abuse hotline on October 22, 2016, reporting that then nineteen-month-old A.N.2 had been flown to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis after he had sustained a first-degree burn on his thigh. When workers went to Newmy's home to investigate, Newmy was incoherent and smelled of alcohol. She refused a drug test but admitted drinking alcohol and smoking crack cocaine. A seventy-two-hour hold was placed on the children.

         On October 27, 2016, the trial court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody and subsequently found probable cause to believe that the emergency conditions that necessitated the children's removal from Newmy's custody continued to exist. On January 26, 2017, A.N.1 and A.N.2 were adjudicated dependent-neglected in that they had been subjected to inadequate supervision due to Newmy's drug use. Newmy was ordered to comply with standard welfare orders and to submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and follow the recommendations.

         In a review order entered May 24, 2017, the trial court found that Newmy had complied with the case plan and court orders. Another review order was entered August 17, 2017, and the trial court found that Newmy had complied except she had not remained drug free; she had not kept DHS informed; and she had not successfully completed drug treatment. She was ordered to attend and complete inpatient drug treatment and to obtain mental-health counseling and treatment as recommended. A permanency-planning order was entered on October 19, 2017, in which the trial court found that Newmy had complied except she had not obtained and maintained stable housing and income; she had not successfully completed drug treatment; and she had not been able to maintain her sobriety. The trial court further ordered Newmy to live separate and apart from Tony Newmy and Melvin Sharkey after having completed drug treatment.[1]

         On February 28, 2018, DHS filed a petition to terminate Newmy's parental rights on the following grounds set forth in Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B) (Supp. 2017): (i)(a) (twelve-month failure to remedy); (vii)(a) (subsequent factors or issues); and (ix)(a)(3)(i) (aggravated circumstances: little likelihood that services will result in successful reunification).

         II. Standard of Review

         We review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo. Hall v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2018 Ark.App. 4. An order forever terminating parental rights must be based on a finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the children's best interest. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(A). The trial 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. Id. The trial court must also find by clear and convincing evidence one or more grounds for termination. Id. When the burden of proving a disputed fact is by clear and convincing evidence, the appellate inquiry is whether the trial court's finding is clearly erroneous. McGaugh v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 485, 505 S.W.3d 227. 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 made. Id. In resolving the clearly erroneous question, we defer to the trial court because of its superior opportunity to observe the parties and judge the credibility of witnesses. Id.

         III. No-Merit Petitions

         Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i) permits counsel for an appellant in a termination-of-parental-rights case to file a no-merit petition and motion to withdraw if, after studying the record and researching the law, counsel determines that the appellant has no meritorious basis for appeal. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1). The petition must include an argument section that lists all adverse rulings to the appellant made by the trial court on all objections, motions, and requests made by the party at the ...


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