Attorney Horowitz overturns termination of parental rights in Alaska Supreme Court.
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
In Edna L. v. State of Alaska, DHHS, OCS, The five Justices of the Alaska Supreme unanimously granted Attorney Horowitz's appeal of the superior court's termination of parental rights. Attorney Horowitz argued that Edna L. was denied due process when she agreed to take part in a new, invalid "special court," which involved some very suspect proceedings.
The Supreme Court's majority opinion "conclude[d] that it was error to adhere to the [court's] preset timeline rather than making an individualized assessment of whether the parents had a reasonable time to remedy based on the facts of their children’s cases, as required by statute," and "that the parents did not knowingly and voluntarily waive that statutory requirement." In a striking concurrence, two Justices agreed that "the facts of the case may well have crossed the constitutional threshold," that "it is ludicrous to believe that parents with longstanding substance abuse problems or other intractable problems (including mental health issues) could, within the FIT Court’s 12-month timeline possibly (1) receive substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, parenting classes, and other necessary therapies; (2) successfully complete these treatments, programs, and therapies; and (3) demonstrate, over some reasonable period of time, that they have internalized what they have learned and demonstrate their ability to safely parent their children." The concurrence suggested that 'the entire premise of the [special court] vis-a-vis these kinds of serious parental issues is invalid and for many parents illusory . . ." and concluded that it would suspend the special court program.
The opinion is available here. The full citation is Edna L. v. Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs. , Office of Children's Servs., 477 P.3d 637 (Alaska 2020).