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Name: Imperial County v. S.S.
Case #: D068026
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/10/2009

The juvenile court properly terminated jurisdiction when the dependency minor died. The minor was removed from her mother’s care and placed with foster parents. A month later, the child died while in the foster parents’ custody. The Department informed the court that investigations were ongoing regarding the circumstances of the minor’s death. Four months later, the Department filed a request to terminate jurisdiction. Minor’s counsel requested that a GAL be appointed to investigate potential civil claims on the child’s behalf. The Department opposed the appointment, arguing that the court’s authority to appoint a GAL was premised on the need to protect the interests of a living child, not a child’s estate. The juvenile court denied the appointment of a GAL and dismissed jurisdiction. Both the minor and father appealed. The appellate court affirmed the orders. Where a child’s death is confirmed, there can no longer be any risk of her suffering future harm. The legal framework surrounding dependency cases contemplates that juvenile court orders will be made for the benefit of living children. The juvenile court was not authorized to retain jurisdiction indefinitely for the purpose of determining the minor’s cause of death.