IN RE SHANAIRA C., SC 18136
Juvenile Matters at Judicial District of Hartford
Neglect Petition; Whether Trial Court Properly Revoked Commitment of Minor Child to Commissioner of Children and Families and Granted Sole Custody to Mother. In November of 2006, the commissioner of children and families (commissioner) filed a neglect petition and a motion for an order of temporary custody of minor child Shanaira C. At that time, the child had been living with her father and his then girlfriend (intervenor), who was granted permission to intervene in the neglect case and then moved to transfer guardianship to herself and to obtain visitation rights. The trial court denied her motions and adjudicated the child neglected. Shortly thereafter, the commissioner moved to revoke the child's commitment, claiming that it would be in the child's best interest to reunite her with her biological mother. The court granted the motion over the intervenor's objection, and it awarded sole custody to the child's mother. The intervenor appealed, arguing that the trial court (1) violated her due process rights in refusing to allow her to call certain witnesses at the revocation hearing and (2) abused its discretion in revoking the child's commitment without making a finding that a cause for commitment no longer existed. In affirming the trial court's judgment, the Appellate Court (105 Conn. App. 713) found that although the intervenor participated in every aspect of the neglect proceedings, the nature of her interest changed on the date that the trial court considered the motion to revoke the child's commitment because the intervenor's motions for guardianship and visitation had already been denied. It therefore found that although the intervenor had standing to participate in the continuing dispositional phase of the proceeding, her personal interest in the proceeding was diminished. It further determined that it was not apparent that permitting the intervenor's witnesses to testify at the revocation hearing would have elicited any facts that were not already before the court. Thus, it concluded that the trial court did not deprive the intervenor of her due process rights. In addition, it concluded that although the trial court did not explicitly make a finding that the mother's fitness to care for the child meant that there was no longer a cause for commitment, that clearly was the import of the trial court's comments. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the judgment of the trial court.