FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. DN-16-05-407
SHUBHRA N. AGARWAL, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and JACQUENETTE S. CORGAN,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
M. KERNAN, Guardian Ad Litem.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
JENNIFER L. HENSAL JUDGE.
Appellant Mother appeals the judgment of the Summit County
Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, that terminated her
parental rights to her child J.B., and placed the child in
the permanent custody of Summit County Children Services
Board ("CSB"). For the following reasons, this
Court reverses and remands.
Mother is the biological mother of J.B. (d.o.b. 1/25/16).
Paternity was established, but Father has never had contact
with the child and did not participate in the proceedings
CSB received a referral after J.B. was born exhibiting signs
of withdrawal and required the administration of morphine.
The agency initiated a safety plan and established a
voluntary case plan for Mother and the child. After concerns
arose regarding Mother's sobriety and her ability to care
for the child, CSB filed a complaint alleging that J.B. was a
dependent child. The agency obtained an emergency order of
temporary custody to a relative with an order of protective
supervision by CSB.
Mother requested appointed counsel. After determining that
Mother met the indigency requirements, the juvenile court
appointed counsel to represent her.
As the case progressed, Mother stipulated to a finding that
J.B. was dependent. When the relative caregiver could no
longer provide care for the child, the juvenile court placed
J.B. in the temporary custody of CSB. The juvenile court
adopted the case plan as the order of the court. Mother was
accepted into the Family Reunification through Recovery Court
("FRRC"). Upon Mother's request, and after
demonstrating her qualification, the juvenile court appointed
counsel to represent Mother in FRRC. Shortly thereafter,
Mother was arrested on criminal charges. She was convicted of
various crimes and sentenced to four years in prison. CSB
filed a motion for permanent custody.
Mother appeared at the permanent custody hearing via video
from prison. Her court appointed counsel was also present.
Mother informed the court that she had just fired her
appointed counsel and that she "would like to obtain
adequate representation." The juvenile court informed
Mother that she had the right to counsel and that the court
had an obligation to appoint counsel for her. The juvenile
court informed Mother that, if she did not want her
previously appointed counsel to represent her, she had two
choices: she could represent herself or hire her own
attorney. It did not mention its ability to appoint
substitute counsel. The court emphasized to Mother, however,
that "you do not have the ability to fire [appointed
counsel] and ask me to appoint someone else." Unprepared
to represent herself, Mother requested a continuance of the
hearing to allow her to hire her own attorney. The juvenile
court continued the permanent custody hearing. In the
interim, Mother filed pro se motions (1) to be present at the
permanent custody hearing via video from prison, (2) for
appointed counsel based on prior appointed counsel's
delineated examples of inadequate representation, and (3) to
continue the permanent custody hearing in anticipation of her
judicial release from prison.
Mother again appeared for the permanent custody hearing via
video from prison. The juvenile court acknowledged
Mother's motions for a continuance and for appointed
counsel. The court asserted that it had already denied
Mother's motion for appointed counsel at the prior
hearing. The juvenile court denied any further continuance
after reminding Mother that it had told her at the prior
hearing that she would be responsible for hiring her own
attorney if ...