ON APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON PARISH JUVENILE COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 14-AD-78, DIVISION " C" . HONORABLE BARRON C. BURMASTER, JUDGE PRESIDING.
EDITH H. MORRIS, SUZANNE E. BAYLE, BERNADETTE R. LEE, SHEILA WILLIS, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.
NOEL E. VARGAS, JR., ATTORNEY AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.
Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Jude G. Gravois, and Robert A. Chaisson.
G. GRAVOIS, J.
[15-100 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] In this intrafamily adoption case, appellant, Timothy Naquin, appeals a juvenile court judgment rendered on November 17, 2014 that denied his motion for a new trial. Appellant argues that he was not afforded a hearing on the issue of whether due process required that he be appointed counsel to represent him prior to the adoption opposition hearing. For the following reasons, we find merit to appellant's assignment of error. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of adoption and remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with La. Ch.C. art. 1243, et seq.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Appellees, Zaida Garay Parks (" Mrs. Parks" ) and her husband Brian Parks, filed a petition for intrafamily adoption of T.E.N., the daughter of Mrs. Parks and appellant, Timothy Naquin. T.E.N. was born out of wedlock to Mrs. Parks and Mr. Naquin in 2004. Mr. and Mrs. Parks subsequently married and have two additional children. Mr. Naquin, in proper person, filed an answer opposing the intrafamily [15-100 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] adoption in which he alleged that he did not have the financial resources of Mr. and Mrs. Parks, and asked the court to consider whether he was eligible to have counsel appointed to represent him in the adoption opposition hearing.
The adoption opposition hearing was conducted on October 27, 2014. At the
beginning of the hearing, the juvenile court judge asked Mr. Naquin, " Mr. Naquin, you, you [sic] intend to represent yourself today?" Mr. Naquin responded, " Yes sir." No other mention was made of Mr. Naquin's pending request for court-appointed representation, and no further inquiry was made as to Mr. Naquin's financial ability to hire counsel. Following the hearing, the juvenile court judge granted the intrafamily adoption and terminated Mr. Naquin's parental rights as to T.E.N.
The Louisiana Children's Code does not grant an opposing parent or child an absolute right to counsel in intrafamily adoption cases. The United States Supreme Court has not mandated counsel in such cases. In re B.E.M., 07-94 (La.App. 5 Cir. 5/29/07), 961 So.2d 498, 500. However, in 2010, ...