from the Juvenile Court of Williams County, Northwest
Judicial District, the Honorable Joshua B. Rustad, Judge.
J. Corcoran, Williston, ND, for petitioner and appellee.
A. Gulya, Williston, ND, for respondent and appellant.
1] J.G., the mother of minor child J.J.T, appeals from a
judgment terminating her parental rights to the child. J.G.
argues the juvenile court erred in finding J.J.T. was
deprived, in denying her court-appointed counsel's motion
for a continuance to prepare for trial, in granting her
court-appointed counsel's motion to withdraw as counsel
of record and appointing that counsel as standby counsel, and
in denying her statutory right to counsel. Because we
conclude the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in
denying a continuance and in allowing withdrawal of counsel,
J.G.'s actions were the functional equivalent of a
voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of her right to
counsel, and the statutory requirements for termination of
J.G.'s parental rights were satisfied, we affirm the
2] In a petition filed with the juvenile court on June 23,
2014, the paternal grandfather of the child born in February
2014 sought to terminate the biological parents' parental
rights in the child. The petition alleged that J.G. regularly
left the three-month-old child unattended while she engaged
in late-night entertaining involving illicit drug use, that a
recent drug test on a hair sample of the child revealed
excessive levels of illicit drugs present in the child,
including methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine, and that
J.G. had displayed ongoing and persistent neglect regarding
the day-to-day care of the child. The petition alleged the
child had resided with the grandfather since May 5, 2014, and
asked that he be appointed custodian and guardian of the
child, but did not seek other specific relief beyond the
termination of the parents' parental rights and did not
specifically seek adoption or other permanent placement of
the child. Subsequently, the paternal grandfather voluntarily
dismissed the petition as it related to termination of the
father's parental rights.
3] A hearing on the petition for the termination of parental
rights was originally scheduled for July 25, 2014, but that
hearing was continued because service of the petition on J.G.
was not effectuated until August 2014. According to counsel
for the grandfather, the Williams County Sheriff's office
made multiple attempts to serve the petition on J.G. and
expressed a belief that she was intentionally avoiding
service. Counsel claimed J.G.'s avoidance of personal
service in the termination proceeding was an attempt to
bolster her position in seeking to dismiss guardianship
proceedings on the grounds that her parental rights had not
4] After a September 24, 2014 hearing, the juvenile court
entered a protective order awarding the grandfather temporary
custody and guardianship, residential responsibility, and
decision-making authority for the minor child. The protective
order also stated a termination hearing was scheduled for
December 12, 2014.
5] J.G. sent a December 8, 2014, handwritten letter to the
juvenile court asking for a continuance of the scheduled
termination hearing. According to J.G., she was in jail on
pending criminal charges. The court granted J.G. a
continuance, and the termination hearing was rescheduled to
February 6, 2015.
6] On February 5, 2015, a letter bearing a physician's
signature was filed with the juvenile court on stationary
from a medical facility. The letter stated that J.G. was
unable to make her scheduled court appearance on February 6,
2015, and requested a continuance to "tend to her
medical needs." The court granted the request for a
continuance, and the termination hearing was rescheduled for
June 8, 2015.
7] J.G. did not have counsel on June 8, 2015, and the record
reflects the termination hearing ultimately was rescheduled
to October 19, 2016. On June 23, 2015, J.G. filed an
application for the appointment of indigent defense counsel
and counsel was appointed on June 24, 2015. In September
2015, a different attorney was appointed to represent J.G.
under a conflict reassignment, and a third attorney was
appointed to represent J.G. in January 2016.
8] In October 2016, J.G.'s appointed counsel sought and
was granted a continuance. Counsel asserted he believed the
trial would only require two days, and he was informed on
October 14, 2016, that the grandfather's counsel believed
the trial would take four days. According to J.G.'s
counsel, he would not be available for the entire scheduled
four-day trial. On October 18, 2016, the juvenile court
continued the termination hearing.
9] In January 2017, the juvenile court ordered the parties to
appear for a scheduling conference in February 2017, and on
April 4, 2017, the ...