Submitted on Briefs: July 25, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Nineteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Lincoln, Cause No. DN-14-24 Honorable
Matthew J. Cuffe, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: Julia D. Nordlinger, Best & Westover Law
Office, Kalispell, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F.
Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Bradley
F. Custer, Assistant Attorney General, Kalispell, Montana
Marcia Boris, Lincoln County Attorney, Libby, Montana
P.B. ("Father") appeals the District Court's
order terminating his parental rights to his daughter, M.B.
He argues that the Department of Public Health and Human
Services, Child and Family Services Division
("Department"), violated his right to due process
when it withheld discovery. He also argues that the District
Court erred in determining that the Department met its burden
under § 41-3-609(1)(f), MCA, to terminate Father's
parental rights to M.B. We affirm.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Father and A.B. ("Mother") lived in Eureka with
M.B. and Mother's older children. Father worked in
Alaska, generally working two weeks at his job site and then
returning home for two weeks. Mother cared for the children
when Father was in Alaska. In December 2014, the Department
requested emergency authority to investigate the
children's well-being because Mother was leaving M.B.
home with her siblings without appropriate care for
significant periods while Father was away. The District Court
granted temporary investigative authority in January 2015,
and the children were placed in the care of family friends.
In April 2015, the District Court adjudicated M.B. as a youth
in need of care and granted the Department temporary custody
on the basis that Mother was not providing care for M.B. and
Father had been unable to care for M.B. or to make
arrangements to provide for her care while he was away. After
the hearing, M.B. remained in the care of the family friends,
who agreed to foster her.
The District Court ordered treatment plans for Father in
April 2015 and in October 2015. Father was represented by
counsel when both treatment plans were ordered. Neither
Father nor his attorney signed the April 2015 treatment plan.
Father and his attorney signed the October 2015 treatment
The Department filed a petition for permanent legal custody
and termination of Father's parental rights in November
2016. After many continuances, the District Court held a
termination hearing in November 2017. At the hearing, Father
argued for the first time that his treatment plans were
inappropriate. He also argued that the Department violated
his due process rights because it withheld discovery. On that
basis, he moved the District Court to dismiss the case or to
continue the hearing to allow him to review the
"evidence that is at play." The District Court
denied Father's motion and later entered its written
Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Granting the
Department Permanent Legal Custody With Right to Consent to
Adoption and Terminating Parental Rights, as to Mother and
Father. Father appeals.
We review a district court's decision to terminate
parental rights for an abuse of discretion. In re
K.A., 2016 MT 27, ¶ 19, 382 Mont. 165, 365 P.3d
478. We review findings of fact for clear error and
conclusions of law for correctness. In re A.H., 2015
MT 75, ¶ 25, 378 Mont. 351, 344 P.3d 403.
We review a district court's ruling on a discovery matter
for an abuse of discretion. In re S.C., 2005 MT 241,
¶ 16, 328 Mont. 476, 121 P.3d 552. A district court
abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily, without
employment of conscientious judgment, or in excess of ...