Submitted April 3, 2018
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(ADA-117-16) (Hon. Carol Ann Dalton, Reviewing Judge), (Hon.
Rahkel Bouchet, Magistrate Judge)
Adriane R. Marblestein-Deare was on the brief for appellant
A. Colbert was on the brief for petitioner/appellee P.D.J.K.
A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia,
Loren L. AliKhan, Solicitor General, Stacy Anderson, Acting
Deputy Solicitor General, and Pamela Soncini, Assistant
Attorney General, were on the brief for appellee the District
A. Bower filed a statement in lieu of brief for appellee J.J.
Boehm-Russell, guardian ad litem, filed a statement in lieu
of brief for respondent/appellee S. W.
Glickman and Fisher, Associate Judges, and Washington, Senior
FISHER, ASSOCIATE JUDGE.
J.W. appeals the decision of the Superior Court to approve
the adoption of her daughter S.W. without her consent. She
primarily contends that the adoption trial was fundamentally
unfair and that the magistrate judge abused her discretion in
weighing the evidence. We disagree and affirm.
was born on February 4, 2014. Appellant J.W. is her
biological mother and J.J is her biological father. When S.W.
was nearly eight months old, the District of Columbia Child
and Family Services Agency ("CFSA") removed her
from J.W.'s care "after J.W. was found incoherent
and under the influence of drugs." On September 30,
2014, CFSA placed S.W. in the care of her paternal
grandmother, P.D.J.K. A few weeks later the court adjudicated
S.W. a neglected child and set an initial permanency goal of
reunification with J.W. However, on September 29, 2015, the
court changed the permanency goal to adoption due to
J.W.'s failure to address her substance abuse, achieve
emotional stability, and improve her caretaking skills. After
the change of permanency goal, P.D.J.K. filed a petition to
adopt S.W. on February 12, 2016. An adoption trial was
originally set for January 2017 but rescheduled, at
J.W.'s request, for May 15 and 19, 2017.
the father consented to the adoption of S.W. by P.D.J.K. (his
mother) and the guardian ad litem supported the adoption
petition, J.W. did not. In March 2017, after this court's
decision in In re Ta.L., 149 A.3d 1060 (D.C. 2016)
(en banc), J.W. requested an evidentiary hearing on whether
the permanency goal should be changed. A hearing was held
before Magistrate Judge Rahkel Bouchet on May 15, 2017, the
date previously scheduled for the adoption trial to begin.
The court heard testimony from three CFSA social workers who
had provided services to the family in the year preceding the
goal change. J.W.'s counsel did not call any witnesses
and J.W. did not attend the hearing. At the conclusion of the
hearing Judge Bouchet announced that she would "maintain
the goal of adoption" and she issued a written Order on
May 30, 2017. J.W. did not appeal that decision.
Bouchet then held a trial on P.D.J.K.'s adoption petition
on May 19, 2017, one of the previously scheduled dates.
P.D.J.K. and S.W.'s current CFSA social worker each
testified during trial, but J.W. was not present and her
counsel did not call any witnesses. After considering
"the entire record in this matter" in addition to
the testimony presented during the adoption trial, Judge
Bouchet found by "clear and convincing evidence"
that J.W. was an unfit parent, unable "to meet the daily
physical, and mental, and emotional needs of herself, let
alone the requirements to meet the needs of the minor
child." Judge Bouchet also found that it was in the best
interests of S.W. "to be adopted by the petitioner, who
she ha[d] resided with for the past two years, and who ha[d]
been maintaining and meeting her needs." The court
issued a final decree of adoption on July 13, 2017, and J.W.
filed a motion for review. Associate Judge Carol Ann Dalton
reviewed the record and found that J.W. had not been denied
"an impartial and fundamentally fair proceeding"
and that Judge Bouchet did not "err or abuse her
discretion by granting the adoption petition."