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Remy M. v. State, Department of Health and Social Services

Supreme Court of Alaska

August 14, 2015

REMY M., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, OFFICE OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES, Appellee.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District No. 4BE-12-00033 CN, Bethel, Beverly Cutler, Judge pro tem.

Rachel Cella, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Ruth Botstein, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, Janell Hafner, Assistant Attorney General, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

I. INTRODUCTION

A father appeals[1] the termination of his parental rights to his daughter. He claims the trial court violated his due process rights when it allowed the termination trial to conclude in his absence without first asking him directly if he wished to testify. The father alternatively requests a remand so he can develop a record to support an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. We affirm the trial court's decision.[2]

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Family History

Kendra G., [3] born in 2012, is an Indian child as defined by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).[4] Her father is Remy M. and her mother was Vera G. Both parents have a history of alcohol abuse, and Remy has a history of domestic violence. The Office of Children's Services (OCS) initially became involved in this case after receiving reports alleging that Vera was abusing and neglecting her children.

Although Remy has been able to maintain sobriety in a highly controlled environment, such as a correctional facility, he has repeatedly relapsed, including a few months before the termination trial. At the time of trial, Remy had not completed the recommended long-term substance abuse treatment or addressed the behavioral health issues that cause him to relapse.

OCS petitioned to terminate Vera's and Remy's parental rights to Kendra. A termination trial took place over four days in Bethel before Senior Superior Court Judge Beverly Cutler in July 2014.[5] OCS presented numerous exhibits and the testimony of 16 witnesses to support its claim that termination of Remy's parental rights was necessary because of Remy's substance abuse, domestic violence, criminal behavior leading to incarceration, and parenting deficiencies.

OCS also presented evidence of Kendra's special needs[6] and the developmental progress she had made since being removed from her parents' care. Kendra was moved five or six times during the two years of OCS custody before ...


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