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Name: Guardianship of H.C.
Case #: A126914
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 08/09/2011
Subsequent History: Opn. modified 9/1/11

Mother was not entitled to appointed counsel in a probate guardianship proceeding. The 16-year old minor was living with her older brother when it came to the attention of CPS that the minor had previously been molested by an uncle while living with her mother. Mother knew about the molest but took no action, and admitting to using methamphetamine. CPS determined that the minor needed to either be in a guardianship or foster care, but that it was in her interest to stay with her brother and his wife. However, since brother could not qualify as a foster parent due to his criminal record, he filed a petition for guardianship. At a hearing on the petition, mother requested appointed counsel. The court determined that she was not entitled to appointed counsel, and granted the guardianship petition. On appeal, mother argued that she had the right to appointed counsel in the probate court proceedings because she was faced with the loss of custody. The appellate court disagreed, finding that mother’s interest in counsel to oppose the guardianship did not outweigh the presumption that due process guarantees appointed counsel only where loss of liberty is threatened. In a private guardianship proceeding, the state is not a party and its resources are not pitted against the parent.