This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Child of: I.S., Parent.
Filed June 13, 2000
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 213717
William E. McGee, Fourth District Chief Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2700 (for appellant mother)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Lucinda E. Jesson, Deputy County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)
Howard S. Kleyman, 2400 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405 (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The district court stayed for 90 days its order terminating appellant-mother’s parental rights, but later denied mother’s motion to extend the stay for a second 90 days. Mother alleges that she was denied due process of law because the stay's duration was unclear and the delayed issuance of the termination order prejudiced her ability to comply. She also claims the district court admitted improper evidence at the hearing on her motion to extend the stay and refused to strike the county’s late submissions. We affirm.
On the day of trial in this proceeding to terminate mother's parental rights, the parties agreed to a termination order, which was to be stayed to permit mother an opportunity to remedy the grounds for termination. The stay required mother to comply with her case plan, but the district court's written order combining the termination and the stay was not filed until 57 days later. At a hearing on mother's motion to extend the stay, the district court told the parties to submit written arguments. The county submitted its argument a day late and in it responded to mother's argument. The district court denied mother's motion to extend the stay and her parental rights were terminated. Mother appeals, but does not challenge the grounds for termination.
D E C I S I O N
1. To involuntarily terminate parental rights, a district court must find at least one statutory basis for doing so. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (Supp. 1999).
Mother does not challenge the grounds for termination; instead, she alleges she was denied the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section Seven, of the Minnesota Constitution. See In re Welfare of J.W., 391 N.W.2d 791, 794-95 (Minn. 1986) (discussing due process in dependency-and-neglect proceeding). Procedural due process requires notice and opportunity for a hearing appropriate to the case. Sisson v. Triplett, 428 N.W.2d 565, 568 (Minn. 1988).
The district court's order, issued 57 days after the hearing, states that the parties had agreed to a 90-day stay of the termination of mother's parental rights, measured from the hearing. Mother alleges that, until issuance of the written order, it was unclear whether the stay was for 90 or 180 days and that not having this clarified until 57 days after the hearing prejudiced her ability to comply with the order. Because the duration of the stay was not put at issue at the stipulation hearing or at the hearing on mother's motion to extend the stay, we decline to address the issue. See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (appellate courts, generally, address only issues presented to and considered by district court); In re Welfare of C.L.L., 310 N.W.2d 555, 557 (Minn. 1981) (refusing to address constitutional issues raised for first time on appeal in termination proceeding).
We note, however, that, although mother's attorney erroneously told mother at the stipulation hearing that the stay was for six months, the county corrected this error at the same hearing by clarifying that it was to be a 90-day stay, which could be extended an additional 90 days if certain conditions were met. We also note that, despite being asked by the district court whether they had anything to add, those representing mother did not object to the county's clarification.
The order denying mother's motion to extend the stay found that she had failed to comply with her case plan, particularly the portions requiring her to obtain adequate housing and to work with a personal-care attendant for the child. Mother alleges that the district court's written order was the first clear statement of her case plan and that the delay in issuing the order prejudiced her ability to comply with the plan in a timely fashion. But the county stated at the stipulation hearing that mother was expected to promptly move to transitional housing. Also at the hearing, mother admitted that her then-current housing was inappropriate and indicated that she was seeking transitional housing. Thus, mother knew that her case plan required her to find adequate housing. Despite knowing this, she refused to move.
At the stipulation hearing, the county also stated that mother was to cooperate with the child's personal-care attendant. On appeal, mother admits that she did not arrange to work with the personal-care attendant. In district court, mother admitted that she did not fully appreciate the child's needs. In both the district court and on appeal, mother claims that she did not cooperate with the personal-care attendant because she lacked sufficient access to the child to learn about the child's needs. But at the hearing on her motion to extend the stay, mother's attorney admitted there was a "struggle" between mother and the child protection workers and that there had been "some digging in of heels" about the reunification plan.
This record shows mother was aware of her obligation to obtain proper housing and also was resisting the county's reunification efforts. Mother did not lack adequate notice of the portions of her case plan that the district court found she did not satisfy, and the district court's failure to issue its order promptly did not render the proceedings defective. Due process was not offended. See In re Welfare of J.J.L.B., 394 N.W.2d 858, 863 (Minn. App. 1986) (district court's failure to issue foster-placement plan promptly not reversible error where, among other things, parent knew what had to be done to correct conditions), review denied (Minn. Dec. 17, 1986).
Referring to documents given to the district court judge at the hearing on the motion to extend the stay, mother argues that the district court admitted "irrelevant and prejudicial material." None of the documents in question address mother's housing. Thus, even assuming both that the district court should not have considered the documents and that not viewing them would have required a conclusion that mother satisfied the personal-care-attendant element of her case plan, mother would still have failed to obtain adequate housing. Absent compliance with her case plan, mother was not entitled to an extension of the stay. Any due-process violation arising from any evidentiary errors occurring at the hearing on mother's motion was harmless. See In re Welfare of S.R.A., 527 N.W.2d 835, 838 (Minn. App. 1995) (refusing to reverse termination for harmless error), review denied (Minn. Mar. 29, 1995).
Mother alleges that her trial counsel objected to the county's late argument opposing mother's request to extend the stay. But the county's memorandum was just one day late, the district court's directive that the parties' memoranda be filed by November 30 was procedural in nature, and, regardless of how this timeliness issue is resolved, mother still failed to obtain adequate housing. Absent adequate housing, any error in accepting the late memorandum was harmless.
2. We reject mother's claim that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to extend the stay. She failed to satisfy two critical elements of her case plan. Therefore, her alleged progress on some elements of her case plan do not entitle her to an extension of the stay. Moreover, mother's explanation of her failure to cooperate with the personal-care attendant is that: (a) it was premature to become involved with the personal-care attendant if the location of mother's residence was not known; and (b) mother "might well have assumed" that the same agency providing a personal-care attendant for the child's foster parent would provide one for mother. Accepting the first assertion as viable renders mother's failure to obtain adequate housing that much more problematic. And the second assertion essentially requires this court to speculate about the reasons for mother's conduct. We decline to do so.
3. Mother moves to strike parts of the appendix to the county's brief as beyond the record on appeal. Mother also alleges that the county's response to her motion to strike is untimely. Because our ruling does not involve the documents in question, striking them would not alter our result. Therefore, we decline to address the motion.