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Name: In re James F.
Case #: B188863
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 01/08/2007
Subsequent History: 3/28/07: Review granted S150316

Father argued on appeal from the termination of his parental rights that the juvenile court committed reversible error when it appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) without inquiring about his competence, and explaining the purpose of the appointment. The Department conceded the error, but argued that it was harmless. The appellate court reversed, finding that the juvenile court’s error in appointing a GAL without explaining the purpose of the appointment and inquiring about father’s competence was structural error requiring an automatic reversal of the termination order. The court removed father’s status as a party without telling him what it was doing or why. It stripped him of the right to participate in the proceedings without giving him due process. The erroneous appointment of the GAL in this case was structural, requiring reversal of the order.