Court of Appeal:
Removing Boy From Mother’s Custody Appropriate Despite Lack of Blameworthiness on Her Part
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district declared yesterday that a suicidal and aggressive teenager suffering from traumatic brain injury was appropriately removed from the custody of his mother toward whom he displays animosity, notwithstanding a lack of fault on her part.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Whitaker expressly found that the mother, “Sharon M.,” had not abused, abandoned nor neglected her son, “Noah M.”. He found that the court had jurisdiction over Noah M. pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code §300(b)(1), which authorizes a finding of dependency where “[t]he child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm or illness, as a result of the failure or inability of his or her parent or guardian to adequately supervise or protect the child.”
The mother argued that any threat of harm to her son was not “as a result of” any “failure or inability” on her part, but was attributable solely to his medical condition and that, accordingly, the court lacked jurisdiction.
Court of Appeal Justice Maria E. Stratton of this district’s Div. Eight set forth in her unpublished opinion:
“This appeal prompts us to discuss the infrequently invoked principle that the juvenile court may exercise jurisdiction over a minor who is at substantial risk of harm, even though the parent is not culpable in creating that risk. We affirm the juvenile court.” She pointed to then-Justice Ming Chin’s July 20, 2017 opinion in In re R.T. which says that §300(b)(1) “authorizes dependency jurisdiction without a finding that a parent is at fault or blameworthy for her failure or inability to supervise or protect her child.”
“We accept Mother’s thesis that Noah’s traumatic brain injury prompts his reckless, disobedient and dangerous behavior. Nonetheless, we find substantial undisputed evidence of an unremitting and admitted cycle of physical altercations between Mother and Noah; a persistent practice by Noah of carrying, brandishing, and hiding knives, whether for his own protection as he claims or for some other reason; an unwillingness or inability by Noah to follow Mother’s instructions combined with founded and unfounded accusations against her and a strong if misguided belief that he needs to protect himself against her; and Mother’s devoted, but ineffectual attempts to control his behavior, whether through physical restraint or verbal direction. These facts place Noah at substantial risk of serious physical harm. That Mother is not culpable in ‘causing’ this risk does not deprive the juvenile court of jurisdiction.”
The boy, in his mid-teens, has been placed with his grandfather.
The case is In re Noah M., B309460.
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