L. A. Cnty. Dep't of Children & Family Servs. v. G.K. (In re A.K.)
|27 April 2023
|In re A.K., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. G.K., Defendant and Appellant. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
|California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. 20CCJP04613A-B Pete R. Navarro, Judge. Affirmed.
John L. Dodd & Associates and John L. Dodd, by appointment of the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.
Law Office of Marissa Coffey and Marissa Coffey for Respondent mother.
Janette Freeman Cochran, by appointment of the Court of Appeal, for minors.
G.K (father) appeals from a restraining order entered against him under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5. Father contends there is insufficient evidence to support the restraining order. In addition father argues the firearm prohibition component of the restraining order should be vacated in light of the recent United States Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle &Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (2022) 597 U.S., , 213 L.Ed.2d 387 (Bruen). We conclude the restraining order was supported by substantial evidence. We also find father's "as applied" constitutional challenge to the firearm restriction was forfeited, and we decline to nevertheless exercise our discretion to consider the issue given it would not present a pure question of law. Therefore, we affirm.
The family consists of father, D.K. (mother), and their two children, Amanda K. (born May 2004) and Marcella K. (also known as "Mars," born June 2006). The family had a history of referrals to DCFS dating back to 2012, including but not limited to, emotional and physical abuse allegations against father.
On August 4, 2020, DCFS received a referral that Amanda had been taken to the hospital and initially reported that she had fallen off her skateboard and hit her head. Amanda had multiple bruises on her arms, legs, and forehead. The doctor was concerned she could also have a head injury, as she was experiencing blurry vision, dizziness, and nausea. Mother later informed the doctor that Amanda had not fallen off her skateboard; rather, father had pushed her into a wall. Amanda's boyfriend witnessed and confirmed the incident.
Mother reported to DCFS that father lived in a downstairs family room and was "not supposed to come upstairs to [the] bedrooms." She further reported father was "paranoid," collected guns and martial arts weapons, and had an "explosive" temper. Mother and the children were terrified of him and believed he could "flip out." Mother had asked father to leave the home, but he refused. She disclosed that some time ago, father grabbed her by the neck. Another time, he was working with a blow torch in the garage and pointed it at her in a threatening manner.
Regarding the referral incident, Amanda reported that father had pushed her, so she pushed him back, and then he "socked" her. Mars tried to intervene. Amanda's boyfriend and friend were in the room and witnessed the incident. Amanda said she had never reported father's behavior in the past to social workers because father told her that "no one likes a snitch." When asked about other incidents of abuse by father, Amanda "began to cry hysterically and said there has been so much." Mars similarly reported that father had punched him in the past. He also said that father had always told him that "[l]esbians are evil." Amanda's boyfriend reported he saw father push Amanda twice and punch her twice.
Father asserted that the referral incident arose over a disagreement about the family's rabbits. Amanda became irate and began punching the door. When father went upstairs, both children came at him, so he had to defend himself against them. Father denied hitting the children. He disclosed that Amanda had been placed on a psychiatric hold earlier in the year because of drug use and that she was verbally abusive towards mother.
On August 20, 2020, a social worker visited the family home and spoke to mother. Mother reported she was "uncomfortable" and "unsafe" in the home since father refused to leave. Father continued to be verbally aggressive. The night before, father had threatened to physically kick Amanda's boyfriend out of the house and then challenged the boyfriend's father to come over to fight. That same night, father was mad at Mars and pushed him onto the couch. Father continued to not accept Mars identifying as transgender and kept calling him a "faggot." Father called Amanda fat, which affected her already low self-esteem. Mother and the children were participating in family therapy and father refused to attend.
When the social worker spoke to the children, they appeared fearful. They asked that the bedroom door be shut and spoke in low voices to avoid alerting father to the social worker's presence. The children indicated that father had become very paranoid after the last visit and warned them not to "snitch." Amanda reiterated the reports about father's aggressive behavior the night before.
Amanda also disclosed that she struggled with suicidal thoughts several years ago, and when father learned about her suicidal ideation, he placed guns around the house. Father even challenged her to hurt herself. Amanda had been in several treatment programs and received a significant amount of therapy. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attributed it to living with father's erratic and angry behaviors, in addition to past unrelated traumas, including sexual assault. Amanda struggled with body image and eating disorders. Father would constantly pinch her body and call her fat. He also called her a "slut" and told her she was "asking to be raped" based on her attire. Amanda was afraid father would hit her or say inappropriate things to her, as he did not care about her.
Mars reported that father was verbally abusive towards him, particularly about his transgender identity. Father stated that Mars and the LGBT community would "burn in Hell," and he would call Mars a "faggot." Father would "play fight" with Mars and punch and push him, even when Mars told him it hurt. Mars stated he was in therapy and that father refused to participate. Mars believed father needed to leave the family home in order for them to be safe.
On August 21, 2020, Amanda's therapist reported a history of issues involving father's behavior towards the children. The therapist had been working with Amanda for three years. The therapist was surprised about the referral and reported that Amanda had been doing well in therapy. Amanda's most recent diagnosis was her eating disorder, and their last session had been several months earlier. The therapist met father for one session and found him to be "old school and rigid." Amanda told her that father had a temper and could be verbally "awful." He would play in a physically aggressive manner and did not appear to know his own strength. The therapist reported mother was slow to act and had her own mental health issues. The therapist would believe Amanda's disclosures of any safety concerns.
Mother contacted the social worker and reported there was another altercation on August 20, 2020. The children started arguing with father and Mars got "socked in [the] face," turning his face red. Amanda tried to protect Mars and got kicked. Mother did not contact the police out of fear father would get upset and make things worse. Mother provided the social worker with photos of the bruises on the children's bodies.
On August 28, 2020, DCFS applied for and received an order removing the children from father but releasing them to mother. DCFS filed a petition on behalf of Amanda (then 16 years old) and Marcella (then 14 years old) under section 300, subdivisions (a), (b)(1), (c) and (j). The petition alleged father had physically abused both Amanda and Mars on numerous occasions, placing them at risk of serious physical harm. In addition, the petition alleged Amanda suffered from a variety of psychological and psychiatric problems, and the parents failed to ensure she took her medication. Finally, the petition alleged Father emotionally abused both Amanda and Mars by calling both of them derogatory and demeaning names, including denigrating Mars based on his sexual identity. DCFS alleged that as a result of father's emotional abuse, both children were at substantial risk of suffering serious emotional damage, as evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and aggressive behavior towards themselves and others.
At the September 4, 2020 detention hearing, the juvenile court found a prima facie case that the children came within section 300 and ordered them detained from father and placed with mother. Father was not present.
On September 16, 2020, the court ordered that the children remain with mother and father's visits be monitored. In response to mother's request, the court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against father, protecting mother and the children. The TRO allowed contact between the parties only during monitored visitation.
During a September 29, 2020 interview, Amanda explained that on the night of the referral incident, she was depressed because her pet rabbit died. Father asked her if she needed him to call the mental hospital or police. Amanda said he liked to threaten and taunt her instead of deescalating the situation. Father got really close to her and she pushed him away. Father then pushed her into the doorway and hit her. Mother was not home during the altercation.
Amanda stated that father would fight with her and Mars when mother was not at home. Father called Amanda...
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