L.D. v. Superior Court

Decision Date05 May 2020
Docket NumberB304543
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(a). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115(a).

(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. 19CCJP02935)

ORIGINAL PROCEEDING. Petition for extraordinary writ. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.452.) Brett Bianco, Judge. Petition denied.

Law Office of Amy Einstein, Steven Shenfeld and Ashley Williams for Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

Mary C. Wickham, County Counsel, Kristine P. Miles, Assistant County Counsel, and Sally Son, Deputy County Counsel, for Real Party in Interest.


Petitioner L.D., the presumed father of 23-month-old R.C., petitions for extraordinary relief from a juvenile court order denying his request for a modification and setting a hearing to select and implement a permanent plan. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.21, 366.26, 388.)1 L.D. contends that the court's failure to appoint trial counsel (§ 317) invalidated all court orders, starting with the June 2019 jurisdiction/disposition hearing. We issued an order to show cause. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.452(d).)

The court did not appoint counsel because L.D. told the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) he had private counsel; an attorney called to confirm his representation. Despite having notice of the detention and jurisdiction hearings, L.D. chose to absent himself and did not appear, claim indigency, or request appointed counsel until six months after the court sustained the dependency petition. (§ 300,subd. (b).) Once L.D. asked for appointed counsel, his request was granted.

L.D. did not present new evidence or show changed circumstances. Nor did he show that restarting the dependency proceeding is in R.C.'s best interests. We deny the petition.


R.C. was born in June 2018. When he was 11 months old, Children's Hospital called DCFS to report severe neglect. R.C. was malnourished; weak; unable to sit up or crawl; had difficulty swallowing; and seemed developmentally delayed. The hospital wanted to admit R.C. for treatment and testing. L.D. and Mother Y.C. (collectively, Parents) refused and departed with R.C., against medical advice.2 L.D. told doctors he was unconcerned about R.C.'s weight or growth; his only concern was the shape of the baby's head.

A DCFS case worker (CSW) reached L.D. by phone and explained the urgency of obtaining medical treatment for his child. L.D. replied that "the doctors only want to charge them money," the system is "corrupt," and "we don't need any more help." A physician who examined R.C. spent two hours trying to convince L.D. to take the baby to the hospital.

DCFS applied for a removal order, declaring that R.C. is in an unsafe environment and needs medical care. The court ordered R.C.'s removal from parental custody on May 6, 2019. As the CSW and police executed the order, Parents attempted to flee their residence with R.C. L.D. was upset, saying the court order was "fake," R.C. is "fine," and that the detention decision was driven by money and corruption. L.D. instructed Mother not torespond to an officer who spoke to her in Mandarin. R.C. was wrested from a baby harness attached to Mother and taken to the hospital.

DCFS filed a petition alleging that Parents failed to protect R.C., who is malnourished and weak, and whose development is in the third percentile. Parents did not obtain timely medical care and removed R.C. from the hospital against medical advice, placing him at risk of severe harm, danger, or death. (§ 300, subd. (b).) DCFS asked the court to detain R.C. in protective custody once he is released from the hospital because Parents do not comprehend the severity of his medical condition, cannot provide adequate care, exhibit paranoid thinking, and are likely to flee the jurisdiction.

Parents were given notice of the detention hearing held on May 10, 2019. They did not appear.3 The court found a prima facie case for detaining R.C. It removed him from parental custody, ordered medical services and an assessment of his physical and psychological status, and authorized monitored visits. R.C. continued to receive hospital treatment; he had "global weakness" attributable to poor nutrition.

DCFS tried to reach Parents by mail and phone. On May 27, 2019, an attorney named Chung Ping Sheng called and identified himself as Parents' counsel; he said they were in China. Attorney Sheng did not call back to let DCFS know whether Parents had returned from China.

DCFS submitted a jurisdiction/disposition report on June 6, 2019. It stated that Parents were reported for neglect in 2018 but DCFS was unable to locate them. The complaint was that Mother did not seek prenatal care until she was six months pregnant and did not take R.C. for medical appointments. R.C. first saw a physician when he was five months old; Parents were told he was failing to thrive, but they did not bring him for follow-up treatment.

R.C. weighed three kilograms at birth and 6.9 kilograms when he was detained. His weight should have tripled since birth. He was an "avid feeder" while hospitalized. In foster care, he gained over two pounds in two weeks and learned to sit up, crawl, hold a bottle, pull himself up, and play with toys. He was smiling and happy.

A Mandarin-speaking CSW exchanged text messages with Mother, repeatedly asking to meet for an interview. She advised Mother of the court hearing date and asked if she wanted to visit R.C. Mother provided a home mailing address for service of court documents but did not agree to meet the CSW. She wrote, "If you against us, we have to seek for an attorney." Attorney Sheng then contacted the CSW. The CSW asked Mother to let her know when she returned from China. Mother replied, "We will try to attend the court hearing. How does the public defender work?" The CSW offered to explain, but Mother did not call. L.D. did not contact DCFS. DCFS conducted a due diligence search to locate Parents and served notices at their home address.

R.C.'s caregivers reported that his health had improved. He overcame severe separation anxiety and underwent a battery of immunizations. He weighed 3.7 pounds more than when he arrived. He had to be taught to eat pureed baby food and was sohungry that he "will eat until you cut him off." He recently had his first birthday but was the size of a six-month-old.

In an updated report, DCFS advised the court that R.C. weighed 18 pounds, four ounces and was in the eighth percentile. Parents wrote the CSW that R.C. was not immunized because, among other reasons, "we have seen on YouTube [that] it was not safe for the shots" and "we recalled when we were children in China, we had options to take the shot or not. . . . Also, a lot of pediatrician[s] asked to give shots, we could read their projection: they wanted us to say no. We felt it was weird."

On June 6, 2019, L.D. texted the CSW, "We are in China. I paid an attorney, Chung Ping Sheng, $2000 to check on my case. He told me I did not need to come back to the U.S. because the next court hearing date will be held in 6-8 weeks." The CSW informed L.D. that the hearing date was June 7, that Parents must attend "and they could have their private attorney or a public counsel will be appointed to them when they attend the court hearing." L.D. wrote, "My private attorney told me to pay him $7000 and he would help to dismiss my case."

L.D. wanted R.C. returned to parental care because "We did not do anything wrong to [R.C.]." Parents were concerned about returning to the United States. L.D. stated, "My friend has told me that there are a lot of gangsters trying to kidnap the children in the U.S. We thought your department is working with gangsters. We cannot trust you guys at all. You guys forcefully took away [R.C.] through the assistance from the gangsters." The CSW explained that DCFS is a government agency that works with law enforcement when needed. L.D. replied, "How can I trust you? I believed you are one of the gangmembers." The CSW advised L.D. to focus on his dependency case.

On June 7, 2019, L.D. texted the CSW, "Morning. Been trying to go to Court. Would apply for postponing date." He telephoned on June 12 to say that Mother is receiving mental health services in China. L.D. contemplated returning to the United States for the jurisdiction hearing. He reiterated that he paid a private attorney for his case. L.D. "asked if he could hire a public defender to represent him without him present." L.D. was "afraid of bad thing that may happen to him" and said, "I just want to make sure I will be safe when I come back to the U.S."

L.D. submitted a statement to the court. A page entitled "Elements" reads, "Principle: If I tell, I'll tell the truth; if I don't tell, I don't hide. [¶] Goal: don't separate us. You should issue a Green Card. [¶] Motivation: For there is light in Court." A page entitled "Repent" contains a list of L.D.'s goals, e.g., not "watch porn in the living room"; not argue at home; and "I shouldn't show him my rifle while he is so little." A page entitled "Appeal" asks for forgiveness and custody of R.C. L.D. stated that he and Mother "don't know how to handle to be a responsible parent in the American standard." L.D. did not like R.C. at first, but now wishes to be a good parent.

L.D. phoned from China and asked the CSW if he would be arrested for child neglect if he entered the United States. The CSW informed him that DCFS does not arrest parents for neglect. Asked when he would be...

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