In re K.M.Annotate this Case
Mother B.O. and Father W.M. appealed a juvenile court's order terminating their parental rights to their three-year-old daughter K.M. The sole issue raised on appeal centered on Orange County Social Services' (SSA) lack of inquiry regarding K.M.'s American Indian heritage as required by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). SSA admitted it failed to comply with the ICWA requirements. Rather than stipulating to a limited reversal and having the matter returned to the trial court for further proceedings, SSA sought an immediate do-over with the trial court while the matter was still pending on appeal. With its briefing on appeal, SSA filed a motion asking the Court of Appeal to consider evidence of that hearing and the juvenile court's order concerning SSA's ICWA investigation and remedial efforts at notification. SSA argued the Court of Appeal had to dismiss this appeal because Mother and Father's issues on appeal were rendered moot by the post-judgment activities. The Court of Appeal disagreed: the trial court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the ICWA issue following its termination of parental rights. Because the juvenile court's post-judgment ICWA order was void, this appeal was not moot. And due to the undisputed ICWA violations, the Court of Appeal ordered a limited reversal of the judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings.