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In re A.N.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 20, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.N., Minor Child, J.J., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Daniel L. Block, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A father of a child appeals adjudicatory and dispositional orders declining to place the child with him. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

          Colin R. McCormack of Van Cleaf & McCormack Law Firm, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Melissa A. Anderson-Seeber, Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Waterloo, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         A father of a child appeals adjudicatory and dispositional orders declining to place the child with him.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         A jailed mother gave birth to a child in 2017. The child was temporarily removed from her care and was transferred to the custody of the department of human services for placement in foster care. The father named in the temporary removal orders and the child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) petition turned out to be someone other than the biological parent. Once the biological father was identified, the State amended its petition to name him. The biological father and his attorney participated in the adjudicatory and dispositional hearings.

         Following both hearings, the juvenile court confirmed that custody of the child would remain with the department for continued placement in foster care. The father appealed. The State preliminarily responds with a mootness argument.

         II. Mootness

         "An issue is moot if it no longer presents a justiciable controversy because it has become academic or nonexistent." In re B.B., 516 N.W.2d 874, 877 (Iowa 1994) (quoting In re Meek, 236 N.W.2d 284, 288 (Iowa 1975)). The State asserts that to the extent the father is "claiming the court erred in declining to place [the child] in his care between the time of adjudication and disposition, the issue is moot."

         Under our precedent, "[a]ny error committed in granting [a] temporary ex parte order cannot . . . be remedied" where a court reconfirms custody in a subsequent dispositional order. See In re A.M.H., 516 N.W.2d 867, 871 (Iowa 1994). The State hangs its hat on this proposition. But the father is not challenging the substance of the initial removal orders; he is challenging the absence of "a formal removal of [the child] from him." This distinct issue could be raised post-removal. Indeed, the issue could only be raised post-removal because the father had no notice of the removal proceedings. See In re J.C,857 N.W.2d 495, 501 (Iowa 2014) ("CINA proceedings may not take place without the presence of ...


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