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In re C. C. P.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

July 22, 2015

In the Matter of C. C. P. and S. L. P., Children.
v.
K. M. J., Appellant DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,

Argued and Submitted January 21, 2015

2261JU, 2262U. Grant County Circuit Court. Petition Numbers 13226104JU, 13226204JU. William D. Cramer, Judge.

Holly Telerant, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the brief was Peter Gartlan, Chief Defender, Office of Public Defense Services.

Inge D. Wells, Assistant Attorney-in-Charge, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General.

Before Lagesen, Presiding Judge, and Flynn, Judge, and De Muniz, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 1133

[272 Or.App. 508] DE MUNIZ, S. J.

Mother's parental rights were terminated after she failed to appear at her termination hearing. Following the hearing, mother moved to set aside the termination judgment due to excusable neglect. The juvenile court denied mother's motion, and she appeals. We affirm.

We review the denial of mother's motion for an abuse of discretion. See Dep't. of Human Services v. A. D. G., 260 Or.App. 525, 534, 317 P.3d 950 (2014). That standard is considered highly deferential, because the " trial court has some discretion to deny a motion to set aside even if the movant establishes 'excusable neglect.'" State ex rel Dept. of Human Services v. G. R., 224 Or.App. 133, 143, 197 P.3d 61 (2008).

The facts are not in dispute. In May 2011, mother's newborn twins were placed in the custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS). The children were returned to mother's care in July 2011. In 2012, the children were again removed from mother's care.

Mother received notice on October 18, 2013, that her termination hearing was scheduled for March 6 and 7, 2014. The notice instructed mother to personally appear and informed her that a failure to appear could result in the termination of her parental rights. Mother's court-appointed attorney filed an answer on her behalf, denying the allegations in the termination petition.

Before the termination hearing, mother moved to Washington. Mother's attorney did not know that she had moved and was not able to contact her for several months. During the three months leading up to the termination hearing, mother did not have contact with her children.

On February 24, 2014, mother sent letters to the court, her social worker, and her attorney informing them that she lived in Washington and provided them with her address. In the letters, mother requested that the termination hearing be moved to Washington because she lacked a car and phone. The letters acknowledged the correct time and location of the termination hearing. After receiving the letter, mother's attorney sent her a letter explaining that the [272 Or.App. 509] hearing could not be moved to Washington and requested that she contact him immediately. Mother did not respond.

Before the termination hearing commenced, mother's attorney moved to withdraw from the case, asserting that his lack of contact with mother placed him at a disadvantage in representing her. He also informed the court that mother had an outstanding warrant for her arrest in the county where the ...


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