IN RE EMONI W., et al., SC 18841

Judicial District of New London


     Appellate Jurisdiction; Mootness; Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children; Whether Appeal Challenging Applicability of § 17a-175 to Out-Of-State, Noncustodial Parents Was Properly Dismissed as Moot.  The respondents are the parents of two minor children, Emoni W. and Marlon W.  Both children were living with the respondent mother when she was arrested on various criminal charges.  The department of children and families filed petitions seeking adjudications that the children were neglected and obtained an ex parte order of temporary custody.  Subsequently, the respondent father, a Pennsylvania resident, requested that he be allowed to take custody of the children.  The court, however, determined that the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (compact), General Statutes § 17a-175, applied to out-of-state, noncustodial parents, such as the respondent father, and, therefore, that a favorable compact study from Pennsylvania was required before the children could be placed with him.  The father appealed, challenging that decision.  The trial court subsequently received the results of the compact study, which authorized placement of the children with the father in Pennsylvania.  Thereafter, the court adjudicated the children neglected and awarded joint legal custody of the children to both parents, with the father having primary physical custody.  Because of this disposition, the Appellate Court (129 Conn. App. 727) dismissed the father's appeal as moot, ruling that no practical relief could be afforded him in light of the fact that the compact study was completed and the father, based on that study, had been awarded legal and physical custody of the children.  The court also determined that the father's appellate claim did not qualify for review under the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to the mootness doctrine set forth in Loisel v. Rowe, 233 Conn. 370 (1995).  It explained that the challenged action here — the application of § 17a-175 to out-of-state, noncustodial parents — was not inherently limited in duration and would not cause a substantial majority of cases raising the same issue to become moot prior to final appellate resolution.  In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the appeal was improperly dismissed as moot.  If the answer to that question is yes, the court will then decide whether § 17a-175 applies to out-of-state, noncustodial parents.