State v. Samuel T. (In re Interest of Taeson D.), No. S-19-382.

CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtMiller-Lerman, J.
Citation305 Neb. 279,939 N.W.2d 832
Docket NumberNo. S-19-382.
Decision Date13 March 2020
Parties IN RE Interest of TAESON D., a child under 18 years of age. State of Nebraska, appellee, v. Samuel T., appellant.

305 Neb. 279
939 N.W.2d 832

IN RE Interest of TAESON D., a child under 18 years of age.

State of Nebraska, appellee,
v.
Samuel T., appellant.

No. S-19-382.

Supreme Court of Nebraska.

Filed March 13, 2020


Troy J. Bird, of Hoppe Law Firm, L.L.C., for appellant.

Pat Condon, Lancaster County Attorney, Mary Norrie, and Danielle M. Kerr, for appellee.

Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.

Miller-Lerman, J.

939 N.W.2d 834
305 Neb. 280

NATURE OF CASE

Samuel T. appeals the termination of his parental rights to his minor child, Taeson D. During the pendency of these proceedings, Samuel became incarcerated in South Carolina, serving a 30-year sentence. Following a termination hearing at which Samuel was represented by counsel but not present, the separate juvenile court of Lancaster County determined that (1) Samuel substantially neglected to give Taeson necessary parental care; (2) Taeson was a juvenile as described by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2016) and reasonable efforts have failed to correct conditions; (3) Taeson was in an out-of-home placement for 15 or more months of the most recent 22 months; (4) it was in the best interests of Taeson to terminate Samuel’s parental rights; and (5) Samuel was unfit to parent Taeson. The juvenile court terminated Samuel’s parental rights to Taeson on three statutory bases as more fully described below. Samuel appeals. He claims that his procedural due process rights were violated and that the juvenile court erred when it terminated his parental rights to Taeson. We affirm.

FACTS

Taeson was born in July 2017. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) took custody of Taeson at the hospital shortly after his birth because his biological mother had admitted to methamphetamine use during pregnancy and the meconium fluid had tested positive for methamphetamine. Taeson’s biological mother relinquished her parental rights in late 2018. Taeson was placed with Lachrisha T., Samuel’s adult daughter, who has cared for Taeson since birth.

305 Neb. 281

Samuel was present at the hospital for Taeson’s birth. Samuel and the child apparently had almost no further contact after this point. Samuel became incarcerated in November 2017 on what the record suggests was a drug-related offense.

In December 2017, a paternity test showed that Samuel was the biological father of Taeson. Candace Sturgeon, a caseworker with DHHS, unsuccessfully attempted to contact Samuel through Lachrisha and other means. Sturgeon eventually located Samuel through a DHHS computer system search and visited him

939 N.W.2d 835

at the jail in Saline County, Nebraska, in June 2018. She testified at the termination hearing that she informed Samuel that the result of the paternity test he had taken showed he was Taeson’s biological father. According to Sturgeon, Samuel stated that he had assumed he probably was Taeson’s father, that he was aware Taeson was living with Lachrisha, and that he had personally recommended that Taeson be placed with her after the child was removed from his biological mother’s care.

According to Sturgeon, Samuel had indicated he supported Lachrisha’s potentially adopting Taeson. According to Sturgeon, Samuel stated "something to the effect of well I obviously am not an option since I'm going to be in prison for 30 years, so I understand that." Sturgeon testified that she advised Samuel that he needed to keep her updated on his whereabouts, because it would be very difficult for her to know where he was if he was transferred.

Samuel asked Lachrisha to bring the child to county jail one time, but before arrangements could be made, Samuel was transferred to federal prison in South Carolina on a 30-year sentence. After the transfer, Samuel did not communicate with Sturgeon or DHHS to update them on his whereabouts or to contact Taeson. Sturgeon testified that she made largely unsuccessful efforts to contact Samuel multiple ways at least once a month.

Turner attended a paternity hearing on June 6, 2018, at which he was declared Taeson’s legal father. In October 2018,

305 Neb. 282

the State moved to terminate Samuel’s and the biological mother’s parental rights. The motion to terminate alleged three grounds under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292 (Reissue 2016), which states:

The court may terminate all parental rights between the parents or the mother of a juvenile born out of wedlock and such juvenile when the court finds such action to be in the best interests of the juvenile and it appears by the evidence that one or more of the following conditions exist:

....

(2) The parents have substantially and continuously or repeatedly neglected and refused to give the juvenile or a sibling of the juvenile necessary parental care and protection;

....

(6) Following a determination that the juvenile is one as described in subdivision (3)(a) of section 43-247, reasonable efforts to preserve and reunify the family if required under section 43-283.01, under the direction of the court, have failed to correct the conditions leading to the determination;

(7) The juvenile has been in an out-of-home placement for fifteen or more months of the most recent twenty-two months.

On November 19, 2018, Samuel was served in prison in South Carolina with a copy of the motion to terminate his parental rights and a summons to appear before the court for a hearing on the matter. In December, Samuel denied the allegations in the motion to terminate and the termination hearing was continued.

In December 2018, Sturgeon left a message with a caseworker at the South Carolina prison and Samuel called her back. During that telephone call, Sturgeon explained to Samuel that the State was moving to terminate his parental rights. Samuel stated that he did not want his parental rights

305 Neb. 283

terminated and that he no longer approved of Taeson’s being placed with Lachrisha. He explained that Lachrisha was not "put[ting] any money on his books" and had stopped communicating with him. Samuel stated that he hoped he

939 N.W.2d 836

would be successful in the appeal of his criminal conviction and that his intent was to win his appeal and parent Taeson.

Sturgeon testified that Samuel did not make further contact with DHHS after December 2018. At the time of the termination hearing in March 2019, Samuel had been in prison in South Carolina for 8 months. Taken as a whole, the testimony showed that Samuel had not attempted to be involved in Taeson’s life either before or after his incarceration. Samuel had not requested photographs of...

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9 practice notes
  • State v. Sierra, No. S-19-180.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • March 13, 2020
    ...se ineffective. There is no evidence in the record concerning Sierra’s attorney’s personal conduct or any potential conflict of interest. 939 N.W.2d 832 At the original sentencing hearing, she made a motion to withdraw, it was granted, and the trial court gave a newly appointed public defen......
  • State v. Isaiah W. (In re Interest of Lyndel W.), No. A-19-1130.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • October 6, 2020
    ...and an appellate court is required to reach a conclusion independent of the juvenile court's findings. In re Interest of Taeson D., 305 Neb. 279, 939 N.W.2d 832 (2020). The meaning of a statute is a question of law, which an appellate court resolves independently of the trial court. In re I......
  • State v. Jeremy H. (In re Joezia P.), A-21-156
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • October 19, 2021
    ...of the trial court, whose decision on appeal will be upheld in the absence of an abuse of discretion. In re Interest of Taeson D., 305 Neb. 279, 939 N.W.2d 832 (2020). An appellate court reviews juvenile cases de novo on the record and reaches its conclusions independently of the juvenile c......
  • State v. Robert P. (In re Interest of Sue P.), No. A-20-369.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • November 17, 2020
    ...and an appellate court is required to reach a conclusion independent of the juvenile court's findings. In re Interest of Taeson D., 305 Neb. 279, 939 N.W.2d 832 (2020).Page 5 ANALYSISStatutory Basis. Robert first assigns that the juvenile court erred when it terminated his parental rights u......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • State v. Sierra, No. S-19-180.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • March 13, 2020
    ...se ineffective. There is no evidence in the record concerning Sierra’s attorney’s personal conduct or any potential conflict of interest. 939 N.W.2d 832 At the original sentencing hearing, she made a motion to withdraw, it was granted, and the trial court gave a newly appointed public defen......
  • State v. Isaiah W. (In re Interest of Lyndel W.), No. A-19-1130.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • October 6, 2020
    ...and an appellate court is required to reach a conclusion independent of the juvenile court's findings. In re Interest of Taeson D., 305 Neb. 279, 939 N.W.2d 832 (2020). The meaning of a statute is a question of law, which an appellate court resolves independently of the trial court. In re I......
  • State v. Jeremy H. (In re Joezia P.), A-21-156
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • October 19, 2021
    ...of the trial court, whose decision on appeal will be upheld in the absence of an abuse of discretion. In re Interest of Taeson D., 305 Neb. 279, 939 N.W.2d 832 (2020). An appellate court reviews juvenile cases de novo on the record and reaches its conclusions independently of the juvenile c......
  • State v. Robert P. (In re Interest of Sue P.), No. A-20-369.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • November 17, 2020
    ...and an appellate court is required to reach a conclusion independent of the juvenile court's findings. In re Interest of Taeson D., 305 Neb. 279, 939 N.W.2d 832 (2020).Page 5 ANALYSISStatutory Basis. Robert first assigns that the juvenile court erred when it terminated his parental rights u......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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