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Name: In re B.D.
Case #: A155254
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 05/24/2019

A stipulated reversal was not sufficient as the basis for resolving the appeal where the Department violated statutory obligations by omitting evidence material to the issue of adoptability. A month after the juvenile court terminated parents’ rights to the minor in reliance on the Department’s recommended finding that the minor was likely to be adopted by the foster parents, the minor was removed from the foster parents’ home. It was discovered that the minor had recently suffered physical abuse in the home. During the proceedings that followed, the juvenile court learned that more than a year earlier the Department had conducted a prior investigation of sexual abuse in the home, yet failed to disclose it at the 366.26 hearing. It was also discovered that the .26 report omitted information concerning a foster parent’s criminal record and prior prison term for a violent offense, and that family members who had lived in the home with the minor were alleged to have committed sexual abuse. Also, the foster parent’s parental rights had previously been terminated to his sons. The social worker saw no need to mention these things because the foster parents were licensed care providers. The juvenile court refused to return the minor to the foster parents’ custody. On appeal from the parental rights termination, mother moved that the court take notice of the post-termination proceedings. The appellate court directed the parties to address whether the criteria for issuance of a writ of error coram vobis were satisfied. At that point, the Department (which had previously opposed the 909 motion) stipulated to a reversal of the judgment. The appellate court declined to accept the stipulated reversal, noting that it was “concerned about the broader public interest.” The court held that the Department breached its statutory obligation to provide a full, fair, and even-handed assessment of adoptability, and that breach violated the minor’s due process rights. By withholding evidence material to the determination of adoptability, the Department added what would likely be another year onto the timetable before the minor’s permanency is decided. The juvenile court was ordered to conduct a new 366.26 hearing.