In re H.R.M., No. 06-0270.

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtPer Curiam
Citation209 S.W.3d 105
PartiesIn the Interest of H.R.M.
Docket NumberNo. 06-0270.
Decision Date01 December 2006
209 S.W.3d 105
In the Interest of H.R.M.
No. 06-0270.
Supreme Court of Texas.
December 1, 2006.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Floyd H. Christian Jr., Kelly McClendon, Angleton, for James and Stacey W.

Jay Anderson Mallard, Shannon Tigner, Angleton, for William M.

PER CURIAM.


Section 161.001(1)(Q) of the Texas Family Code provides that parental rights may be terminated if the parent has "knowingly engaged in criminal conduct that has resulted in the parent's: (i) conviction of an offense; and (ii) confinement or imprisonment and inability to care for the child for not less than two years from the date of filing the petition." A divided court of appeals determined that the time remaining on a parent's prison sentence was insufficient evidence from which a factfinder could reasonably form "a firm belief or conviction" that a parent would be imprisoned or confined for at least two years. Because the court of appeals misapplied

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the standard for reviewing the evidence, we reverse and remand.

William Keith M. ("Keith") and Stacey W. are the biological parents of H.R.M., who was born October 13, 2000. Keith and Stacey married in December 2000, then divorced in 2001. Under an agreed divorce decree, Stacey was H.R.M.'s sole managing conservator, and Keith was possessory conservator with the right to supervised visitation. Since January 2002, Keith has been incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, serving concurrent sentences for robbery and enticing a child. See TEX. PEN. CODE §§ 29.02, 25.04.1

In 2004, Stacey married James W., and on July 6, 2004, they filed a petition seeking to terminate Keith's parental rights under subsection (Q) and to allow James to adopt H.R.M.

A jury found that Keith's parental rights should be terminated, and the trial court entered an order doing so, but the court reserved a ruling on James's request to adopt H.R.M.2 The trial court denied Keith's motion for a new trial. The court of appeals reversed the order terminating Keith's parental rights, concluding that the evidence was factually insufficient to support "a firm belief or conviction [that] Keith would still be imprisoned or confined as of July 6, 2006." ___ S.W.3d ___, 2006 WL 1147806.

In reviewing termination findings for factual sufficiency, a court of appeals must give due deference to a jury's factfindings, In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 27 (Tex.2002), and should not supplant the jury's judgment with its own, Golden Eagle Archery, Inc. v. Jackson, 116 S.W.3d 757, 761 (Tex.2003). The court should inquire "whether the evidence is such that a factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the [] allegations." In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 25. "If, in light of the entire record, the disputed evidence that a reasonable factfinder could not have credited in favor of the finding is so significant that a factfinder could not reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction, then the evidence is factually insufficient." In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 266 (Tex.2002). In applying this standard, "[a]n appellate court's review must not be so rigorous that the only factfindings that could withstand review are those established beyond a reasonable doubt." In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 26 (citing Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 767-69, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982)).

In In re A.V., we decided that section 161.001(1)(Q) of the Texas Family Code applies prospectively and said, "Thus, if the parent is convicted and sentenced to serve at least two years and will be unable to provide for his or her child during that time, the State may use subsection Q to ensure that the child will not be neglected." 113 S.W.3d 355, 360 (Tex. 2003). We recognize that a two-year sentence does not automatically meet subsection Q's two-year imprisonment requirement. In some cases, neither the length of the sentence nor the projected release date is dispositive of when the parent will in fact be released from prison. A parent

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sentenced to more than two years might well be paroled within two years. Thus, evidence of the availability of parole is relevant to determine whether the parent will be released within two years. Mere introduction of parole-related evidence, however, does not prevent a factfinder from forming a firm conviction or belief that the parent will remain incarcerated for at least two years. Parole decisions are inherently speculative, Ex Parte Moussazadeh, 64 S.W.3d 404, 413 (Tex. Crim.App.2001) (citing Ex Parte Evans, 690 S.W.2d 274, 278 (Tex.Crim.App.1985)), and while all inmates doubtless hope for early release and can take positive steps to improve their odds, the decision rests entirely within the parole board's discretion. See In re K.R.M., 147 S.W.3d 628, 630 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 2004, no pet.) (stating that a father's "hope that he might be granted early release is pure speculation"). If the mere possibility of parole prevents a jury from ever forming a firm belief or conviction that a parent will remain incarcerated for at least two years, then termination under subsection Q will occur only when the parent has no possibility of parole. By that rationale, the party seeking termination would have to show that there is zero chance of early release. This would impermissibly elevate the burden of proof from clear and convincing to beyond a reasonable doubt.

Although the court of appeals properly stated the standard for reviewing factual sufficiency in parental termination cases, ___ S.W.3d at ___, 2006 WL 1147806 at *2-3, it misapplied it. The court of appeals concluded that the jury could not have reasonably formed a firm belief that Keith would remain imprisoned or confined on July 6, 2006, because Keith testified that he would be up for parole each year and that he was...

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1316 practice notes
  • In re A.B., No. 02–11–00209–CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • August 8, 2013
    ...for factual sufficiency, we give due deference to the factfinder's findings and do not supplant the verdict with our own. In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex.2006). We determine whether, on the entire record, a factfinder could reasonably form a firm conviction or belief that the parent ......
  • In re J. G. S., NO. 01-18-00844-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • March 14, 2019
    ...We give due deference to the factfinder’s findings, and we cannot substitute our own judgment for that of the factfinder. In re H.R.M. , 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). The factfinder is the sole arbiter when assessing the credibility and demeanor of witnesses. Id. at 109. We ......
  • In re M.T.R., NO. 14-18-01058-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • May 16, 2019
    ...the sole arbiter when assessing the credibility and demeanor of witnesses. In re A.B. , 437 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex. 2014) ; In re H.R.M. , 209 S.W.3d 105, 109 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). We may not second-guess the fact finder’s resolution of a factual dispute by relying on disputed evidence or......
  • In re Interest of L.N.C, NO. 14-18-00691-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • January 31, 2019
    ...Id. The fact finder assesses the credibility and demeanor of the witnesses. In re A.B. , 437 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex. 2014) ; In re H.R.M. , 209 S.W.3d 105, 109 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). We may not second-guess the fact finder’s resolution of a factual dispute by relying on disputed evidence o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1316 cases
  • In re A.B., No. 02–11–00209–CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • August 8, 2013
    ...for factual sufficiency, we give due deference to the factfinder's findings and do not supplant the verdict with our own. In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex.2006). We determine whether, on the entire record, a factfinder could reasonably form a firm conviction or belief that the parent ......
  • In re J. G. S., NO. 01-18-00844-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • March 14, 2019
    ...We give due deference to the factfinder’s findings, and we cannot substitute our own judgment for that of the factfinder. In re H.R.M. , 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). The factfinder is the sole arbiter when assessing the credibility and demeanor of witnesses. Id. at 109. We ......
  • In re M.T.R., NO. 14-18-01058-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • May 16, 2019
    ...the sole arbiter when assessing the credibility and demeanor of witnesses. In re A.B. , 437 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex. 2014) ; In re H.R.M. , 209 S.W.3d 105, 109 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). We may not second-guess the fact finder’s resolution of a factual dispute by relying on disputed evidence or......
  • In re Interest of L.N.C, NO. 14-18-00691-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • January 31, 2019
    ...Id. The fact finder assesses the credibility and demeanor of the witnesses. In re A.B. , 437 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex. 2014) ; In re H.R.M. , 209 S.W.3d 105, 109 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). We may not second-guess the fact finder’s resolution of a factual dispute by relying on disputed evidence o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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