In re Z.V.A., 373 N.C. 207 (2019)

  • Facts: There is an underlying neglect action with a permanency planning order (PPO) of adoption and reunification. The PPO ordered DSS to proceed with a termination of parental rights for the parents. A week after the TPR was filed by DSS, the child was placed with the maternal aunt in New Jersey. After a TPR hearing, the court concluded neglect existed as to each parent and the TPR was in the child’s best interests. Both parents appealed the TPR order.
  • Recusal: “A court is not required to recuse itself absent a motion from a party, and when no such motion is made, the issue is not preserved for appellate review.” Sl.Op. at 11. Applying Rule of Appellate Procedure 2, the supreme court exercised its discretion to address parent’s argument for recusal, which was based on a statement made by the trial judge that at the previous permanency planning hearing he was willing to send the child to the care of the maternal aunt in New Jersey as he did not think the child could be with her parents and as such it was in the child’s best interests to TPR. This statement by the district court judge was merely an explanation that the court had taken that earlier step when determining the child’s best interests at the time that decision was made and was not a reflection that the court had reached a conclusion to terminate the parents’ rights prior to the TPR hearing. A determination that this statement was judicial bias would have  the illogical consequence of a district court judge never being able to preside over a TPR after ordering a permanent plan that is compatible with the need for a TPR.
Termination of Parental Rights
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