Appealing and preserving the record with specific objections
An issue I do not see much in LPS Conservatorship appeals but happens a lot in dependency appeals. Objecting with specificity. I understand that LPS Conservatorship matters strive to be “non adversarial”, but so does dependency court. I’d like to see more of (a dependency issue), forfeiture and objections covered for LPS case law. We hear a lot about overzealous counsel stating that “for the record mother/father objects to termination” but not the legal basis as to why. This sets up for a poor result with an appeal later as the record does not indicate the basis for appeal. Dependency court strives for non-adversarial resolution of conflicts and for both parties to work towards the best interest of the child. This case I will cover is a case coming out of dependency court but I expect that the same issues are happening somewhere in an LPS Conservatorship court.
A recent case law that came out once more covers this issue of objecting with specificity is in re Daniel B., 231 Cal. App. 4th 663, 180 Cal. Rptr. 3d 26, 26–28 (2014).
In this case several issues were at hand, but the main focus will be the fact that the trial court deemed that the mother did not make a timely and specific objection. When dealing with appellate matters, general objections are insufficient to preserve issues for review. Objections made by counsel must state the grounds upon which the objection is based. Object with specificity. If counsel fails to do so, they risk forfeiture.
In this case there were issues of drug abuse and DV that brought the child to the attention of the juvenile court. The court detained the child under § 300, for (a), (b), and (j) counts and ordered that the mother participate in DV weekly meetings. The mother at some point during the making of the dispositional orders objected to the DV orders but the court stated that there was a need based on history and that no suitable alternative existed. Mother’s counsel after dispositional orders were made noted “Mother's objection to the jurisdictional and dispositional findings”. Mother filed a timely appeal.
The department on appeal contended that mother forfeited her right to appeal citing that she did not raise a timely appeal, nor did she appeal with specificity. The department cites
“[A] reviewing court ordinarily will not consider a challenge to a ruling if an objection could have been but was not made in the trial court. The purpose of this rule is to encourage parties to bring errors to the attention of the trial court, so that they may be corrected. (In re S.B. (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1287, 1293. In addition, “[g]eneral objections are insufficient to preserve issues for review. The objection must state the ground or grounds upon which the objection is based. (In re E.A. (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 787, 790.)
The appellate court returned citing that it found that mother did raise a timely appeal to ordered services and that the trial court record demonstrated that she did raise a specific objection to the ordered services.
Using counsel’s own recitation of the law the appellate court noted that mother’s objection at the time allowed the court to consider any errors it may have made. When faced with this objection to possible error, the trial court instead asserted its opinion that it had considered alternatives to the ordered services and that it had found no suitable alternatives to DV treatment. It also doubled down and stated that it would not place a time limit on participation. Based on these two facts, the appellate court found that if mother had made another objection no further action could have been taken as the juvenile court was given enough time to consider the matter, made its decision, and proffered its reasoning.
Going back to the first point, now that the appellate court gave this reasoning, the objection “Mother's objection to the jurisdictional and dispositional findings” does not appear as out of line as it did without context. However, without the trial court record in front of us, we do not know exactly how the objection to services was raised and stated, but the trial court record must have been sufficient for the appellate court to make this ruling.
Other issues were discussed in this case but for now the issue of objecting with specificity will be the only topic covered.
231 Cal.App.4th 663
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 7, California.
IN RE DANIEL B., et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Angela B., Defendant and Appellant.
Filed October 22, 2014As Modified November 17, 2014
Background: County child welfare agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, Sherri Sobel, Juvenile Court Referee, declared two children dependents of the court, removed them from the custody of their father, and released them to mother with family maintenance services. Mother appealed. Reversed in part and remanded. (Super. Ct. No. DK00453)
Juvenile Dependency and