[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses "Universal Citation" and was given an "official" citation when issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will note that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation, the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion should include the reporter page number. If you need assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]
Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.
Case Name: SEG v. GDK
Citation: 2007 WY 203
Docket Number: S-07-0075
Appeal from the
Representing Appellant (Plaintiff): M. Jalie Meinecke and Alex H. Sitz III of Meinecke & Sitz, LLC,
Representing Appellee (Defendant): Ethelyn Boak of
Issue: Whether the district court’s Order on Termination of Parental Rights is an appealable order from which the Court has jurisdiction to entertain an appeal.
Facts/Discussion: Mother, SEG, contests the district court’s refusal to terminate the parental rights of Father, GDK, to the parties’ minor child, KGK.
Standard of Review: Under W.R.A.P. 1.04(a) the Court has jurisdiction to entertain an appeal from a judgment or from an appealable order. Whether a court has jurisdiction is a question of law to be reviewed de novo.
W.R.A.P. 1.05(c), (d), and (e) were not implicated in any possible analysis of the district court’s Order on Termination of Parental Rights. Therefore, in order to qualify as appealable, the order must affect a substantial right, and must either be issued in a special proceeding or prevent a judgment in the case, under W.R.A.P. 1.05(a) or (b). The order in the instant case does not affect a substantial right. Father’s parental rights and right to associate with his daughter were not altered in any way by the interlocutory order. Therefore it was not an appealable order under W.R.A.P. 1.05.
Holding: The Order on Termination of Parental Rights in this case did not affect a substantial right and so was not an appealable order under W.R.A.P. 1.05. The order also was not a judgment under W.R.A.P. 1.04 as it did not resolve all the issues in the case. Therefore, the Court did not have jurisdiction to entertain an appeal from the order.
C.J. Voigt delivered the opinion.
J. Hill dissented: The Justice dissented because the case involved a special proceeding that is governed by procedures set out in Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-2-309 through 14-2-319. Substantial rights are always at stake in cases such as the instant case and strict adherence to governing statutes is mandatory. The Justice also noted that the majority opinion was not a de novo review inasmuch as the Court purported to be determining its jurisdiction so the mention of the standard seemed mistaken.
The Justice would hold that the district court’s order was an appealable order. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-2-315 or 14-2-316 were the two governing statutes. The district court chose an option that was not available to it. It was clear the district court intended not to terminate Father’s rights. The Justice would construe the order accordingly and find that the order had the effect of dismissing the petition. Therefore, the district court would have had no jurisdiction to consider any other issues.
For those reasons, the Justice felt it was necessary for the Court to resolve the matter on the merits. The Justice stated the Court recently re-emphasized their view that the procedures for termination of parental rights are mandatory and failure to abide by them is fundamental error requiring reversal.
Link: http://tinyurl.com/2e4pyv .