Taffner v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs. (Majority, with Concurring and Dissenting)Annotate this Case
Chris and Anita Taffner were the adoptive parents of five children who came to their home through foster-care services and were adopted in 2009 and 2011 respectively. On January 2, 2015, the Department of Human Services (DHS) removed the children from the home as a result of allegations that Chris had sexually abused one of his children. On the same day, Chris was arrested for sexual abuse. On January 5, 2015, DHS filed an emergency custody and dependency-neglect petition. On May 19, 2015, DHS filed a petition to terminate Chris and Anita’s parental rights, citing as grounds the circuit court’s finding that Chris had abused B.T. and K.T., that Anita had not protected the children, that she still remained in the home, and that she had refused to submit to a psychological evaluation. Anita responded that the adjudication hearing was not a “meaningful” hearing, it was in violation of her due-process rights, and she had not been afforded effective assistance of counsel. Anita also filed a motion requesting that the circuit judge recuse from the case because “this Court’s conduct has raised a reasonable apprehension of bias.” The circuit court denied this motion. Chris filed a pro se “Motion for a New Lawyer” in which he requested that the circuit court appoint him new counsel. In his motion, Chris argued that his counsel had not adequately represented him in the adjudication hearing, asserting that counsel was not prepared for the hearing, that counsel had not called witnesses or made any attempts to investigate the claims against him, and that counsel had not informed Chris of his right to appeal the order. Chris' appointed counsel filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, stating that she and Chris “have a significant difference in strategy and tactics to defend this matter.” The circuit court granted counsel’s motion to withdraw as counsel and appointed new counsel but did not make findings on Chris’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel allegations. In the end, the Taffners' parental rights were terminated, and they appealed, raising a host of alleged errors with the termination proceedings. Finding none, however, the Supreme Court affirmed the termination of the Taffners' parental rights.