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Name: In re Angel W.
Case #: C037895
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/16/2001
Subsequent History: Rev. denied 1/29/02.
Summary

The trial court erred when it refused appellant’s request to represent herself in a parental rights termination proceeding. That there is no constitutional right to self-representation in a dependency proceeding does not mean there is no such right. There is a statutory right in a proceeding to terminate parental rights, and error in denying this right should be analyzed under ordinary principles of harmless error as set forth in People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal. 2d 818. Here, appellant was denied her right to self-representation because she was too upset for the court to take a waiver. However, when she regained some composure, the trial court should again have attempted to take the waiver. Only when a litigant is so disruptive as to significantly delay or disturb the proceedings, and will remain so, may the court exercise its discretion to deny self-representation. Here, there was no indication that upon resumption of the proceedings, appellant was anything but respectful and cooperative; and therefore, the trial court improperly denied her her right to represent herself. However, since it was not reasonably probable that by representing herself appellant would have been able to counter the evidence that adoption was in the minor’s best interest, the error was harmless.