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Name: R.H. v. Superior Court
Case #: D061609
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/21/2012

Prospective adoptive parents have rights to notice and to participate in a hearing pursuant to section 366.26(n), but there is no statutory or due process right to appointed counsel at the hearing. The minor was placed with her grandparents after removal from their mother due to her substance abuse issues. Grandparents, who had custody of the older siblings already, were designated the de facto parents and prospective adoptive parents (PAP). All three children were subsequently removed based on allegations of physical abuse. At a hearing regarding the removal, the juvenile court denied grandparents’ request for appointed counsel. Following the hearing, the minors were removed due to the physical abuse. Grandparents argued in a writ proceeding that they were denied due process when the court denied their request for counsel. The appellate court rejected the argument. Nothing in the language of section 366.26(n) or in its legislative history indicates that the legislature intended to provide the right to appointed counsel to a PAP. Nor do considerations of fundamental fairness compel the appointment of counsel in this case. The grandparents committed serious and prolonged physical abuse against the older siblings. Even if the court erred in failing to appoint counsel, the error would have been harmless. Grandparents also lost their right to be considered the minor’s de facto parents due to the abuse.