On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FN-16-0083-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Yannotti.
The Office of the Public Defender (Public Defender) appeals from an oral decision by a Family Part judge, which prohibited a law guardian from participating in a court proceeding on November 2, 2007, to determine whether an application by the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) for an order to show cause would be granted. For the reasons that follow, we conclude the Public Defender's motion for leave to appeal was improvidently granted. Therefore, the current appeal is dismissed.
The facts are not in dispute. On October 23, 2007, K.R. gave birth to her fifth child, C.M. At the time of birth, C.M. weighed four pounds and ten ounces. Blood samples taken from mother and child tested positive for cocaine. The Division was familiar with K.R. because her parental rights to four other children had been involuntarily terminated. Shortly after C.M.'s birth, the Division filed a verified complaint*fn2 and order to show cause seeking to place C.M. in the immediate custody, care and supervision of the Division. The Division's application was considered by a Family Part judge on November 2, 2007. During that proceeding a law guardian within the Office of the Public Defender asked to participate on behalf of C.M., but the court denied the request:
The law guardian has no standing in this case because if you look at the complaint, it's an Order to Show Cause and to appoint a law guardian. . . . The fact that it's docketed doesn't mean a thing because I haven't heard anything.
. . . If I sign the Order to Show Cause in addition to whatever other relief the Division may be asking for as it [a]ffects the child and/or parent or parents, it also includes the right to have a . . . law guardian appointed on behalf of the child.
. . . . . . . The child's interests are not in any way prejudiced by the law guardian having no standing at this point until I sign the order.
If I sign the order and a law guardian is appointed, there is nothing stopping the law guardian from being in court the next morning to seek whatever relief they [may] or may not want on behalf of the child, if there is a dispute as to the relief granted in the Order to Show Cause . . . .
The Division is here to protect everybody's interest and will do that. The Division just doesn't come in haphazardly and ask for relief. . . . To tell me that [the child] is not represented, I don't buy that for one second.
If the law guardian wants to come into the case, be my guest, come in any time you want, but you're going to come in after I enter the order and not before. That is my decision.
The trial court also denied the Public Defender's request to stay the proceedings pending ...