IN THE MATTER OF: C.B.D. and P.M.P., Youths in Need of Care.
Submitted on Briefs: March 15, 2017
From District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DN 14-142
Honorable Mary Jane Knisely, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Meri Althauser, Montana Legal Justice, PLLC,
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F.
Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Scott D.
Twito, Yellowstone County Attorney, Billings, Montana
Jeremiah Shea Justice.
Birth mother, A.P. (Mother) appeals orders of the Thirteenth
Judicial District, Yellowstone County, terminating her
parental rights with respect to C.B.D. and P.M.P. We restate
the issue on appeal as follows:
Whether Mother has standing to challenge the placement of
P.M.P. after Mother's parental rights were
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
In December 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services
(the Department) received a report that P.M.P., an Indian
Child for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA),
had tested positive for marijuana and Hydrocodone at birth.
The Department took no action against Mother at that time. In
August 2014, the Department was notified that Mother was
using methamphetamine intravenously, leaving needles within
reach of the children, and that 20-month-old P.M.P. was
playing with a Taser. The Department attempted to contact
Mother at this time, but was ultimately unsuccessful. On
September 26, 2014, the Billings Police Department responded
to a call from the children's father that Mother told him
she had strangled P.M.P. and killed her. When the police
located Mother, they discovered that P.M.P. was, in fact,
alive and had been in the care of Mother's cousin for
several weeks. The children's father suggested that
Mother had hallucinated the events as a result of her
methamphetamine use. P.M.P. was immediately placed into
emergency protective care with maternal relatives, in
compliance with ICWA.
From September 2014 until April 2016, the Department
attempted, unsuccessfully, to work with Mother to overcome
her substance abuse issues in order to regain custody of her
children. On April 4, 2016, the Department filed a petition
to terminate Mother's parental rights. On June 21, 2016,
the District Court held a hearing on the petition. The
Department's ICWA expert testified that for the past two
years, P.M.P. had been in the home of R.W. and J.A.,
neighbors of Mother's relatives. The ICWA expert also
testified that this placement was not in compliance with
ICWA. On August 30, 2016, the District Court issued its
Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Terminating
Parental Rights. Mother timely appealed this order only as it
pertains to P.M.P.'s placement, not the termination of
her parental rights.
Questions of justiciability, such as standing, are questions
of law which we review de novo. Heffernan v. Missoula
City Council, 2011 MT 91, ¶ 28, 360 Mont. 207, 255
P.3d 80. We determine whether a party has standing "as