People in Interest of S.M.
2021 COA 64. No. 20CA1524. Dependency and Neglect—Racial Bias—CRCP 60(b)—Termination of Parental Rights.
May 6, 2021
Parents filed a direct appeal of a judgment terminating their parental rights. While the appeal was pending, the judge who presided over the proceedings below was publicly censured for violating C.J.C. 2.3, which prohibits a judge from manifesting bias or prejudice based on race or ethnicity by word or action. Parents moved for reversal of the termination judgment and remand to the juvenile court for a new termination hearing before another judicial officer, arguing that the judge’s decision to terminate their parental rights was due to the judge’s prejudice or bias against them based on father’s ethnicity and mother’s religious affiliation.
The Court of Appeals concluded it could not determine the facts necessary to resolve parents’ allegations. Instead, parents must raise their allegations in a CRCP 60(b) motion in juvenile court and obtain a ruling from a different judicial officer, subject to further review by the Court.
The request to reverse termination was denied. A limited remand was granted for the purpose of hearing and ruling on CRCP 60(b) motions. Following resolution of the motions, parents are to immediately forward a certified copy of the district court’s order to the Court, and the case will be recertified.