FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35PR-09-63],
HONORABLE LEON N. JAMISON, JUDGE
Y. Harris, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Sandra Y. Harris, Pine
Bluff, for appellant.
LINKER HART, Associate Justice
matter comes before us as an appeal from Jefferson County
Circuit Court. Appellant, Alicia Morris, seeks reversal of
the circuit courts March 10, 2017 order, which denied her
motion to terminate a guardianship held by Jannelle Clark,
who is Morriss niece, over J.M., who is Morriss minor
child. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed, and we then
granted review. We vacate the opinion from the Arkansas Court
of Appeals, and reverse and remand for an order consistent
with this opinion.
any pleadings or other documents related to this action were
filed, on July 21, 2007, Morris signed what is titled a
"Legal Document," that purported to confer a
guardianship over J.M., an infant at the time, to either
Collie Bland, who is Morriss sister, or Clark. Morriss
statement in the document provides that she was presently
"not stable," and that she that she believed Bland,
her sister, was the one who would have guardianship over J.M.
However, it is Clarks signature that appears on the line in
the document for "adoptive parent."
February 12, 2009, Clark filed a petition for guardianship
over J.M., alleging that Morris had numerous criminal charges
pending. On February 17, 2009,
the circuit court held a hearing and entered an emergency
order appointing Clark as J.M.s temporary guardian. On April
27, 2009, Morris filed a pro se response stating that she was
not relinquishing her parental rights and stating that she
only intended for Bland to be J.M.s guardian, not Clark.
11, 2009, the circuit court held a hearing on Clarks
petition at which Clark appeared with counsel and Morris, who
had a pending felony charge of second-degree battery,
appeared pro se. At the hearing, Morris notified the circuit
court that she was contesting the petition. The circuit court
found that Clark was qualified and that it was in J.M.s best
interests that Clark be appointed as guardian. The court
awarded Morris visitation every other weekend with the option
to the mother and guardian to agree to additional visitation.
The court did not make any explicit finding to the effect
that Morris was unfit to parent.
little over seven years later, on August 18, 2016, Morris
filed a Motion for Emergency and Ex Parte Order for Temporary
Custody, Motion for Permanent Change of Custody and to
Terminate Guardianship, for Contempt and to Abate or Dismiss
Petition for Child Support. Alicia alleged, inter alia, that
the felonies had been nolle prossed, she had no pending
felony charges, and that Clark had willfully denied
visitation. Clark responded generally denying the
allegations. The circuit court set the matter for hearing on
October 26, 2016.
would be fair to say that the circuit court was presented
with "mixed facts" at the October 26, 2016 hearing.
In its order, the circuit court made a number of findings
that were either favorable to Morris or unfavorable to Clark.
For example, the circuit court found that "[t]he natural
mother showed that the conditions that made it necessary for
this guardianship no longer exist. The felony charge was
nolle prossed. It would appear that the natural mothers
personal life is stable." The circuit court also found
that Clark had moved the child to Tennessee without
permission and had the child using the last name of Clarks
then-boyfriend, a convicted felon, both of which "caused
(the) circuit court great concern in ...