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Name: In re Kristen B.
Case #: D051932
Opinion Date: 06/18/2008
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Citation: 163 Cal.App.4th 1535
Summary

Minor’s counsel was not ineffective for advocating against return of the minor to parental custody. The 14-year-old minor reported sexual abuse by her stepfather, and was removed from the home. At the jurisdiction hearing, she recanted her story and said she wanted to go home. Minor’s counsel advised the court of the minor’s position, but argued against returning the minor to parental custody. The court sustained the petition and removed the minor. On appeal, mother contended that the minor received ineffective assistance of counsel because her counsel undermined her credibility. The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed. The Legislature has expressly provided that the best interests of the minor, not his or her wishes, determine the outcome of the case. The duty of minor’s counsel is not to advocate the client’s objective, but to advocate for what the lawyer believes to be in the client’s best interests, even when the lawyer and client disagree. Here, minor’s counsel performed her statutory duties zealously and effectively by conducting a factual investigation and advocating a position which protected the minor, notwithstanding the minor’s wishes. There was no evidence that minor’s counsel called the minor as a witness to impeach her. On the contrary, she did so to allow the minor to state her wishes. Counsel cannot be faulted for questioning the minor in a way meant to aid the court and protect the minor’s best interest.