Cynthia D.

19 Cal. Rptr. 2d 698 (1993)

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Cynthia D.

California Supreme Court
19 Cal. Rptr. 2d 698 (1993)

Facts

Cynthia D. (defendant) had a child named Sarah D. The San Diego County Department of Social Services (county) (plaintiff) filed a dependency petition, alleging that Cynthia abused drugs and was unable to protect Sarah from abuse. Throughout the dependency proceedings, the court adhered to the procedures and evidentiary standards required by statute. At the dependency hearing, the juvenile court applied the clear-and-convincing-evidence standard (CCES) and declared Sarah to be a dependent of the court. Sarah was placed with a foster family while the county undertook efforts to reunite Sarah and Cynthia. The court then held several hearings to determine the progress of reunification efforts, applying the CCES and finding at each hearing that Cynthia’s parental unfitness continued. The court then held a hearing to decide whether reunification would create a substantial risk of detriment to Sarah. This time, the court applied the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard (PES), which was a less demanding standard than the CCES. The court found that Sarah’s return would create a substantial risk of detriment. That finding triggered the possibility that the court could terminate Cynthia’s parental rights, freeing Sarah for adoption, during the next step in the proceedings, which was a permanent-plan hearing. The court set a permanent-plan-hearing date to determine the best permanent plan for Sarah’s care. Cynthia filed a petition asking the California Court of Appeal to prohibit the juvenile court from terminating her parental rights and to require the juvenile court to vacate its order setting the permanent-plan-hearing date. Cynthia argued that the PES had been unconstitutionally applied to a finding of risk of detriment and that the CCES should be applied. The appellate court denied Cynthia’s petition, and the California Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Panelli, J.)

Dissent (Kennard, J.)

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