FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26JV-17-179]
HONORABLE LYNN WILLIAMS, JUDGE
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Corbyn, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, JUDGE
Langston appeals the termination of her parental rights. She
argues that the circuit court erred in denying her
court-appointed attorney's request to withdraw from the
case after Langston had expressed a desire (through her
attorney) to hire a new attorney and to no longer have
court-appointed counsel represent her. She also points out
various ways in which her counsel allegedly stumbled during
the termination hearing. We affirm the termination of
Langston's parental rights.
spring of 2017, Karen Langston's son, K.L., was removed
from her custody and adjudicated dependent-neglected. K.L.
was at risk of substantial harm due to Karen's use of
methamphetamine and other illegal drugs. The record shows
that Karen failed to comply with the court's orders for
nearly a year. In April 2018, the Arkansas Department of
Human Services (DHS) petitioned the Garland County Circuit
Court to terminate her parental rights.
circuit court convened a termination hearing on 23 May 2018.
Karen was not present. Before the hearing began, Karen's
attorney told the court that he had spoken with her the day
before and that Karen had sent two emails telling him that he
was fired and that she was going to hire a new attorney. He
asked the court to allow him to withdraw from representation.
No written motion to withdraw was filed, and the record lacks
any other written or oral requests from Karen that she be
allowed to change her attorney. Consequently, the record
provides no explanation why Karen wanted her court-appointed
opposed the oral motion to withdraw and argued that Karen had
been served under Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 5 and she
"had well over a month to fire an attorney and hire
another one." The attorney ad litem remained neutral on
the subject. The circuit court denied Karen's
attorney's motion, stating, "I don't know where
she [Karen] is in regard to hiring counsel. I'm going to
deny the motion and I don't know where that leaves you
[parent counsel] in regard to ethically in this
situation." Karen's attorney responded,
Your Honor, I'll defend her to the best of my ability. We
were-up until yesterday afternoon we were actively working,
developing the facts of the case and making recommendations
of the case, so, you know, as of yesterday afternoon I felt
like I was preparing with my client so that I could fully and
competently [represent her] in the hearing today.
court then told the attorney that he would be allowed to
withdraw "after we get the findings in this case"
and the findings were reported to Karen.
hearing continued without Karen, and her parental rights were