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Rowan B. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services

Supreme Court of Alaska

November 25, 2015

ROWAN B. SR., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES, OFFICE OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES, Appellee.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Nos. 3PA-12-00057, 00058, 00059 CN Palmer, Kari Kristiansen, Judge.

Josie Garton, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant. Laura Fox, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Rachel Levitt, Assistant Public Advocate, Palmer, and Richard Allen, Public Advocate, Anchorage, Guardian Ad Litem.

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

OPINION

FABE, JUSTICE.

I. INTRODUCTION

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his three biological children. The children were adjudicated children in need of aid based on findings that the father had sexually and physically abused his daughters. In a criminal proceeding the father was convicted on 29 counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and one count of incest. The father sought a delay of the termination proceedings pending appeal of his criminal convictions, but the superior court denied this continuance request. The father appeals, arguing that the superior court abused its discretion by denying the request. Because the superior court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the children's interest in permanency weighed heavily against delaying the termination proceedings for years while the father pursues his criminal appeal, we affirm.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS[1]

Rowan B., Sr. and Risa F. are the divorced parents of three children: Agnes, Rowan Jr. (Junior), and Saul.[2] After Rowan and Risa divorced, Rowan received custody of their three children as well as custody of Risa's two older daughters, Aeryn and Reagan. Aeryn and Reagan have now reached the age of majority.

In 2012 Aeryn reported to the police and the Office of Children's Services (OCS) that she and Reagan had been physically and sexually abused by Rowan over an extended time period. Aeryn also expressed her concern that Rowan was sexually abusing Agnes. OCS filed an emergency custody petition and removed the minor children - Agnes, Junior, and Saul - in June 2012.

The superior court held a contested adjudication proceeding in January and February 2013. Aeryn and Agnes both testified about Rowan's sexual and physical abuse. Noting that he potentially could face criminal charges, Rowan chose not to testify at the adjudication proceedings.

At the conclusion of the adjudication proceedings, the superior court found that Rowan had sexually and physically abused Aeryn and Agnes. Relying on Aeryn's and Agnes's testimony the court found that Rowan had threatened to kill Aeryn and Agnes if they told anyone about the abuse. The court adjudicated Agnes, Junior, and Saul children in need of aid based on Rowan's physical and sexual abuse of Agnes and on Junior's and Saul's "repeated exposure to this severe abuse."

Rowan appealed the CINA adjudication, in part challenging the superior court's denial of certain discovery requests.[3] We concluded that it was error to deny Rowan's discovery requests without properly applying the Alaska Civil Rules, and we therefore remanded for resolution of Rowan's discovery requests.[4] "On remand the superior court obtained, reviewed, and made available the various discovery items" and "invited supplemental briefing, "but Rowan failed to respond.[5] We once again addressed the CINA adjudication and affirmed, after concluding that "the superior court's determination that Rowan sexually abused the children or placed them at risk of sexual abuse, is not clearly erroneous."[6]

After the CINA adjudication, Rowan was charged in a separate criminal proceeding for his sexual abuse of Aeryn, Reagan, and Agnes. A jury convicted Rowan of 29 counts of first degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of incest. He was sentenced to a composite term of 268.5 years with 107 years ...


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