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In re C.P.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

January 31, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF: C.P., A MINOR APPEAL OF: C.P., A MINOR

         Appeal from the Order Entered April 22, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-15-DP-0000029-2014 FID: NO. 15-FN-000020-2014

          BEFORE: DUBOW, RANSOM, AND PLATT, JJ.[*]

          OPINION

          DUBOW, J.

         Appellant, Jeremiah F. Kane, Esq. ("Attorney Kane"), appeals from the April 22, 2016 Order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County that vacated his appointment as Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL") in a dependency proceeding. After careful review, we affirm.

         A detailed recitation of the factual and procedural history is unnecessary to our disposition. In sum, on May 7, 2014, the Chester County Children and Youth Services Agency ("Agency") filed a Dependency Petition alleging, inter alia, that C.P. ("Child") was truant and unruly. On the same day, the trial court appointed Attorney Kane to be both the Child's attorney and the Child's GAL. Order, dated 5/7/15. On June 4, 2014, the court adjudicated the Child dependent due to the Child's truancy, habitual disobedience, and ungovernable acts. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 6302. The Child was fourteen years old. During this proceeding, Attorney Kane represented the Child in a dual role as the Child's attorney and GAL.

         As a result of the dependency determination, the Agency placed the Child outside of the home from June 2014 until March 2015. In March 2015, the Agency reunified the Child with his mother.

         After returning home, however, the Child's unruly behavior began to escalate once again. On March 29, 2016, Attorney Kane filed a request for an emergency hearing. On April 7, 2016, the Child's mother signed a Voluntary Placement Agreement and the Agency placed the Child at Glen Mills Shelter pending the outcome of evaluations.

         On April 14, 2016, a hearing officer conducted an emergency hearing. Attorney Kane once again represented the Child in a dual role as the Child's attorney and GAL. The Child wanted to return home; Attorney Kane, however, advocated to the hearing officer that the Child should remain in placement. The Child refused to communicate with Attorney Kane. N.T. Hearing, 4/14/16, at 4-5.

         The Agency then argued that Attorney Kane should only be acting as the Child's attorney, rather than attorney and GAL, because the trial court adjudicated the Child dependent based on status offenses.[1] Id. at 5-6. In response, Attorney Kane argued that the Child needed both an attorney and a GAL. Id. at 7, 10.

         At the end of the hearing, after giving Attorney Kane a chance to argue that the Child needed both an attorney and a GAL, the hearing officer vacated Attorney Kane's appointment as the Child's GAL and retained Attorney Kane as the Child's attorney.

         Attorney Kane raised a challenge to the hearing officer's recommendation to the trial court. The trial court denied the challenge on April 20, 2016. On April 22, 2016, the trial court accepted the hearing officer's recommendations and entered an Order, inter alia, vacating Attorney Kane's appointment as the Child's GAL and appointing Attorney Kane solely as the Child's attorney.

         Attorney Kane appealed his removal as the Child's GAL. Both Attorney Kane and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

         Attorney Kane raises the following issue on appeal: "Did the [t]rial [c]ourt abuse its discretion and err in removing [Attorney Kane] as the [GAL] in the [Child's] Dependency matter, without notice or written motion from the party requesting said action and without any statutory authority for the Court to remove a [GAL] while retaining him as the [Child's] attorney thereby leaving no one to advocate for the best interests of the [Child?]" Attorney Kane's Brief at 6.

         We review a trial court's decisions in a child dependency proceeding for an abuse of discretion. In re E.P., 841 A.2d 128, 131 (Pa. Super. 2003). "We must accept the facts as found by the trial court unless they are not supported by the record." Id. (quotation and citation omitted). It is our responsibility to ensure that the trial court has applied the appropriate legal principles to the record while still affording great weight to the court's fact-finding ...


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