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Name: In re A.C.
Case #: D066943
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/17/2015

Father forfeited right to raise issues from termination of services at 12-month review hearing for failure to pursue a writ. After father filed his notice of intent to file a writ petition following the termination of his services at the 12-month review hearing, his appointed attorney reviewed the case and found no meritorious issue. She notified the court that no writ petition would be filed, and the notice of intent to file a petition was dismissed. In his appeal from the subsequent termination of his parental rights, father contended that the court should treat the appeal as a writ and examine the decision to terminate services. He contended that he was entitled to review because of ICWA violations, arguing that the reunification efforts were insufficient under the higher “active efforts” standard of ICWA. He also argued that his appointed appellate counsel’s failure to pursue a writ petition amounted to ineffective representation. The appellate court rejected his argument. Even under a heightened standard for active reunification efforts, the evidence supported the court’s termination of services. Father did not demonstrate material deficiencies in the reunification efforts, nor was there any undue prejudice resulting from the Department’s actions. Since any error would have been harmless, the court declined to make a determination on whether appellate counsel’s performance was deficient. Father forfeited the substantive arguments he raised concerning the orders made at the 12-month review hearing, and even if the court were to consider those claims, it would find them meritless.