Robert L. TAYLOR, Appellant
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and Minor Child, Appellees
FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 23JV-17-253],
HONORABLE DAVID M. CLARK, JUDGE
Tyler Henderson, Little Rock, for appellant.
appeal arises from the circuit court’s November 8, 2018 order
terminating the parental rights of Robert L. Taylor to his
then seven-year-old daughter, CT. The child’s biological
mother consented to the termination of her parental rights,
so she is not party to this appeal. 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), Taylor’s counsel has
filed a motion to withdraw as counsel and a no-merit brief
asserting that there are no issues of arguable merit to
support an appeal. The clerk of this court delivered to
Taylor, by certified mail, a copy of his attorney’s motion
and brief along with a letter informing him of his right to
file pro se points for reversal, but no pro se points have
been filed. Counsel’s brief contains an abstract and addendum
of the proceedings below, discusses the adverse ruling to
terminate, and explains that there is no meritorious ground
for reversal. After applying the appropriate standards of
review, we affirm the order terminating Taylor’s parental
rights and grant counsel’s motion to withdraw.
Termination of parental rights is a two-step process
requiring a determination that the parent is unfit and that
termination is in the best interest of the child.
Houseman v. Ark. Dep’t of Human Servs., 2016
Ark.App. 227, 491 S.W.3d 153. The first step requires proof
of one or more statutory grounds for termination; the second
step, the best-interest analysis, includes consideration of
the likelihood that the juvenile will be adopted and of the
potential harm caused by returning custody of the child to
the parent. Id. We review
termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo. Id.
The grounds for termination of parental rights must be proved
by clear and convincing evidence, which is the degree of
proof that will produce in the fact-finder a firm conviction
regarding the allegation sought to be established.
Id. When the burden of proving a disputed fact is by
clear and convincing evidence, the appellate inquiry is
whether the circuit court’s finding that the disputed fact
was proved by clear and convincing evidence is clearly
erroneous. Id. 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, the reviewing court
defers to the circuit court because of its superior
opportunity to observe the parties and to judge the
credibility of witnesses. Id.
Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i)(1) allows counsel for an
appellant in a termination 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. The petition must
include an argument section that includes all circuit court
rulings that are adverse to the appellant on all objections,
motions, and requests made by the party at the hearing from
which the appeal arose and an explanation why each adverse
ruling is not a meritorious ground for reversal. Ark. S.Ct.
R. 6-9(i)(1)(A). Additionally, the petition’s abstract and
addendum are required to contain all rulings adverse to the
appellant made by the circuit court at the hearing from which
the order on appeal arose. Ark. S.Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1)(B).
Counsel states that any argument challenging the two
statutory grounds for termination or the best-interest
findings would be wholly frivolous. Counsel further states
that there were no other adverse rulings except the findings
supporting the termination of Taylor’s parental rights.
Counsel is correct.
October 2017, the Department of Human Services (DHS) took
emergency custody of CT, her older half sister, MR, and her
younger half brother, CR. Taylor did not have custody of CT
because he was in prison. Taylor had received and served a
fifteen-year prison sentence for second-degree sexual
assault, and thereafter, Taylor failed to register as a Level
II sex offender, leading to a five-year prison sentence for
that offense. The biological mother of all three children was
in a drug-treatment facility.
DHS took emergency custody in October 2017, the children were
being cared for by Taylor’s brother and the brother’s
girlfriend. The brother’s ex-wife had taken one-year-old CR
to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe head
trauma and other significant injuries not consistent with the
story provided by Taylor’s brother and the brother’s
girlfriend. Their story was that about a week before, CR had
fallen down some stairs at home. DHS’s investigation led to
the conclusion that Taylor’s brother had severely physically
abused CR. Over the next year, several hearings were
conducted in which Taylor was ordered to ...