IN THE INTEREST OF S.I., Minor Child, B.I., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Joseph Seidlin,
mother appeals the order terminating her parental rights to
Barajas of Macro & Kozlowski, LLP, West Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Vogan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
days of winter storms posed a quandary for the juvenile court
scheduled to hear evidence in the
termination-of-parental-rights case involving the mother of
then eight-month-old S.I. On the first day of inclement weather,
January 22, 2019, the mother called her attorney and reported
she could not make it to the courthouse. The hearing was
originally set for that day and the next morning. The
juvenile court agreed to continue the proceedings until the
next day. But the snow and cold persisted-forcing
school closures and city bus delays on January 23. The mother
did not appear at the courthouse on the second day and did
not contact her attorney. Her attorney was frank with the
I think the weather here is probably worse than it was
yesterday. For the record, Des Moines Public School District
is closed. I checked the DART bus station, and they're
running delayed. I don't think any of the routes are
canceled, but they're delayed. I don't know why my
client is not here. I would assume it's weather related.
I just don't know that to be true.
mother's attorney asked for "a short
continuance" so "we can come back and actually put
some testimony on." The juvenile court delayed the hearing
for fifteen minutes, but when the attorney was still unable
to reach his client, the court denied a renewed motion to
continue. The court explained, "I would need to have
some communication at least stating that it's the weather
that's delaying [her], and I don't have
mother now appeals the juvenile court's decision to
proceed with the termination hearing in her absence. She
alleges both an abuse of discretion and a violation of her
due process rights. We review the denial of a motion to
continue a termination trial for an abuse of discretion.
In re M.D., 921 N.W.2d 229, 232 (Iowa 2018).
"Denial of a motion to continue must be unreasonable
under the circumstances before we will reverse." In
re C.W., 554 N.W.2d 279, 281 (Iowa Ct. App. 1996). We
review constitutional claims, such as the deprivation of due
process, de novo. Id. Likewise, our overarching
review of termination-of-parental rights proceedings is de
novo. In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).
In that review, "our fundamental concern" is
S.I.'s best interests. See M.D., 921 N.W.2d at
denying a continuance, the court accepted numerous exhibits
from the State and took judicial notice of the underlying
CINA file. The State did not present any live witnesses but
argued it had proved by clear and convincing evidence
termination was proper under Iowa Code subsections
232.116(1)(d), (h), and (i) (2019). One of the State's
exhibits, the January 2019 Iowa Department of Human Services
(DHS) report to the court, explained S.I. tested positive for
methamphetamine at birth-leading to his immediate removal
from his mother's custody in May 2018. The mother
acknowledged using the drug while pregnant and struggled with
her addiction through the summer and fall of 2018. She did
not successfully complete substance-abuse treatment and did
not consistently attend scheduled visitations with S.I.,
according to the DHS report.
juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights
under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d) and (h). She does not
challenge the evidence supporting those grounds on appeal.
She argues only that the order terminating her parental
rights should be vacated because the denial of her motion to
continue was an abuse of discretion and a due process
not reach the due process question because the mother did not
preserve error on that issue during the termination
proceedings. See In re S.V.G., 496 N.W.2d 262, 264
(Iowa Ct. App. 1992) (holding "matters not raised in the
trial court, including constitutional questions, cannot be
effectively asserted for the first time on appeal");
see also In re L.J., No. 18-0910, 2018 WL 3472199,
at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. July 18, 2018) (finding parent
"failed to preserve error on her due process claim, as
her counsel's ...