Lassiter, Matter of

Decision Date06 November 1979
Docket NumberNo. 7914DC80,7914DC80
CourtNorth Carolina Court of Appeals
PartiesIn the Matter of William L. LASSITER.

Thomas Russell Odom, Durham, for petitioner-appellee.

Benjamin A. Currence, Durham, for respondent-appellant.


The sole question presented on appeal is whether the trial court committed reversible error when it did not appoint counsel to represent the indigent respondent in this proceeding to terminate respondent's parental rights in her child. We conclude that the trial court did not commit error.

There is no question but that there is a fundamental right to family integrity protected by the U.S. Constitution. See Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246, 98 S.Ct. 549, 54 L.Ed.2d 511 (1978). At issue is whether due process requires the State to appoint and pay counsel to represent indigents in this situation. The requirements of procedural due process were certainly met in this case. Respondent had ample notice of the hearing, was actually present when it was held, and was allowed to testify and cross-examine petitioner's witnesses. See State v. Smith, 265 N.C. 173, 143 S.E.2d 293 (1965). The requirement of substantive due process imposes a "standard of reasonableness and as such it is a limitation upon the exercise of the police power." In re Moore, 289 N.C. 95, 101, 221 S.E.2d 307, 311 (1975). It certainly is not an unreasonable or arbitrary exercise of the police power for the State to intervene between parent and child where that child is helpless and defenseless and is endangered by parental neglect, inattention, or abuse. Certainly no unreasonableness or arbitrariness appears on the instant record where the evidence brought forward by the Department of Social Services demonstrated a pattern of neglect of her child by respondent substantially predating her present incarceration, and no evidence of any rehabilitation of respondent or amelioration of her attitude towards her child was adduced. The termination of parental rights by the State invokes no criminal sanctions against the parent whose rights are so terminated. While this State action does invade a protected area of individual privacy, the invasion is not so serious or unreasonable as to compel us to hold that appointment of counsel for indigent parents is constitutionally mandated. We agree with the underlying rationale of In re Moore, supra, in that the legislature might have required and authorized the appointment and...

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8 cases
  • Lehman v. Lycoming County Children's Services Agency
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • March 31, 1981
    ...Lassiter v. Department of Social Serv., -- U.S. --, 101 S.Ct. 70, 66 L.Ed.2d 21 (1980), granting cert. to In re Wm. C. Lassiter, 43 N.C.App. 525, 259 S.E.2d 336 (1979); Santosky v. Kramer, -- U.S. --, 101 S.Ct. 1694, 68 L.Ed.2d 192 (1981), granting cert. to In re John A. A., 75 A.D.2d 910, ......
  • Lassiter v. Department of Social Services of Durham County, North Carolina
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1981
    ...and the trial court found that her failure to make an effort to contest the termination proceeding was without cause. Pp.32-33. 43 N.C.App. 525, 259 S.E.2d 336, Leowen Evans, Raleigh, N.C., for petitioner, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court. Thomas Russell Odom, Bolton, N.C., for respo......
  • Biggers, In re, 8019DC447
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • January 20, 1981
    ... ... between parent and child where that child is helpless and defenseless and is endangered by parental neglect, inattention, or abuse." In re Lassiter, 43 N.C.App. 525, 527, 259 S.E.2d 336, 337 (1979), review denied, 299 N.C. 120, 262 S.E.2d 6 (1980). In sum, we conclude that G.S. 7A-289.32(4) does ...         § 7A-289.22. Legislative intent; construction of Article. The General Assembly hereby declares as a matter of legislative policy with respect to termination of parental rights: ... (1) The general purpose of this Article is to provide judicial procedures ... ...
  • Clark, In re, 136
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • August 17, 1981
    ... ...         At the call of the matter for hearing, each of the guardians ad litem orally moved Judge Williford pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure to ...         The United States Supreme Court has very recently addressed this question in Lassiter v. Department of Social Services of Durham County, --- U.S. ----, 101 S.Ct. 2153, 68 L.Ed.2d 640 decided 1 June 1981, 5 and held that the United ... ...
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