IN RE BRAYDEN E.-H.; IN RE LEIGHLYND E.-H., SC 19136
Child Protection Session at Willimantic
Termination of Parental Rights; Whether Trial Court, in Applying General Statutes § 17a-112, Deprived Mother of her Due Process Rights in not Finding that Termination of her Parental Rights was the Least Restrictive Alternative to Achieve the Best Interests of the Children; Whether the Constitutional Issue was Properly Preserved. In 2011, the commissioner of children and families (petitioner) filed petitions to terminate the respondent mother’s parental rights in her two sons. The trial court granted the petitions pursuant to General Statutes § 17a-112, finding that the respondent had failed to achieve such a degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that, within a reasonable time, she could assume a responsible position in the lives of her children. It further found that termination was in the best interests of the children. It then awarded a permanent guardianship of the children to a paternal aunt and her husband. The respondent filed a motion to reargue, contending that, in applying § 17a-112, the court deprived her of her substantive due process rights under the state and federal constitutions because it did not find by clear and convincing evidence that the termination of her parental rights was the least restrictive alternative to achieve the best interests of her children. She further maintained that the termination of her parental rights amounted to a due process violation in light of the fact that the court had found that the state’s compelling interest in protecting the interests of the children would be met by establishing a permanent guardianship. The court granted reargument but reaffirmed its original decision, emphasizing that, in terminating the respondent’s parental rights, its intention was to prevent her from having any further control or influence over the children so that she could not undermine the authority of the guardians. The court further rejected the respondent’s constitutional claim, stating that her position was not consistent with the existing state of the law in any American jurisdiction. The court opined that it would be more appropriate to advance the constitutional claim before a legislative body. The respondent subsequently filed this appeal, arguing that the court’s decision to terminate her parental rights violated her due process rights. The petitioner counters that the constitutional issue was not properly preserved for appellate review because it was first raised in the postjudgment motion to reargue when it should have been raised during the trial itself.