In the Interest of N.A., child State of North Dakota, Petitioner and Appellee
N.A., child, L.A., mother, M.P., father, and Janice Briese, Guardian ad Litem, and Executive Director of the ND Department of Human Services, Respondent M.P., father, Appellant
from the Juvenile Court of Burleigh County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce A. Romanick, Judge.
M. Vaagen, Burleigh County State's Attorney, Bismarck
N.D., for petitioner and appellee.
D. Peterson, Legal Services of ND, Bismarck N.D., for
J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Dale
V. Sandstrom. VandeWalle, Chief Justice, concurring
J. Crothers, Justice.
[¶1] A father appeals a juvenile court order
adopting a judicial referee's decision to terminate his
parental rights. The father appeals both the juvenile court
order and the judicial referee's order, arguing he was
denied due process of law because the guardian ad litem
failed to fulfill mandatory responsibilities. The guardian ad
litem's failure to interview the father did not violate
his constitutional right to due process. The juvenile court
order adopting the judicial referee's order and
terminating the father's parental rights is affirmed.
[¶2] The state petitioned to terminate the
father's and mother's parental rights in April 2015.
The child's guardian ad litem filed a report supporting
termination, stating the child had been in foster care since
August 2013, the father's last contact with social
services was in June 2014 and the father's whereabouts
were unknown. A juvenile court order granted the state's
motion to withdraw the April 2015 petition.
[¶3] The state again petitioned to terminate
the father's and mother's parental rights in October
2015. The father received the petition, affidavit in support
termination and an affidavit of mailing while incarcerated at
the Richland county jail. The affidavit of mailing, which was
also received by the guardian ad litem, listed the
father's address at the Richland county jail. The
guardian ad litem filed a nearly identical report supporting
termination, listing the father's whereabouts as unknown
and his last contact with social services as June 2014. The
amended report stated the mother was voluntarily terminating
her parental rights. The court mailed the report to the
father at the Richland county jail.
[¶4] A trial was held in January 2016. The
guardian ad litem and the father both were present. The
father testified he did not contact the child from June 2014
until sometime after July 2015. The guardian ad litem offered
her view that the father's parental rights should be
terminated. The guardian ad litem made her statement to the
court at the judicial referee's request. The guardian ad
litem was neither sworn nor subject to cross examination;
however, no party objected to any claimed irregularity in the
proceeding. The judicial referee " considered the
written and in-court report of the guardian ad litem and . .
. arguments of counsel" and terminated the father's
[¶5] The father requested juvenile court
review, arguing his constitutional right to due process was
violated because the guardian ad litem failed to interview
him. The juvenile court adopted the referee's order and
terminated the father's rights to the child. The juvenile
court concluded the father's right to due process and
equal treatment under the law was not violated.
[¶6] The father argues the guardian ad litem
failed to fulfill her mandatory duties. N.D.R.Juv.P.
" (b) Responsibilities of a lay guardian ad litem. A lay
guardian ad litem must:
(1) advocate for the best interest of the child;
(2) exercise independent judgment, gather information,
participate in negotiations, and ...