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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The issue in this case is whether an indigent parent who was proceeding pro se is denied effective assistance of counsel when an attorney ad litem is 1. appointed on the day of a final hearing on the petition to terminate his parental rights; 2. does not request a continuance; 3. does not communicate with her client; and 4. proceeds to trial. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. In analyzing the effectiveness of counsel in the context of a termination of parental rights, the court follows a two-pronged test set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, to determine whether an attorney’s representation was so inadequate as to be in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 S.Ct. 2052 (1984). The appellant contends that the attorney appointed to represent him provided ineffective assistance of counsel during the termination hearing. The trial court appointed the appellant’s attorney ad litem on the day of the final hearing. Nothing in the record suggests that the appointed counsel requested a continuance from the trial court. The appointed attorney had no opportunity to meet with or consult her client, who was in prison, and she apparently requested none. The record further shows that counsel’s preparation for this hearing was to review appellant’s “criminal history.” Her presentation of evidence filled one and a half pages of the reporter’s record of the final hearing and consisted of a cross-examination of Denton. During this cross-examination, the appointed counsel adduced evidence that the appellant had been “arrested for numerous things including harassment and stalking and several indecency [sic] with a child and indecent exposure, DWI.” Applying the first prong of the effectiveness-of-counsel test, the court concludes that counsel’s assistance in this case fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. In this case there was a breakdown in the adversarial process. Counsel took no opportunity to interview the appellant, to request a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum, to find and interview potential witnesses, to investigate the conviction that was the basis for termination, to request a jury, or to challenge the pleadings or the statute. Applying the second prong of the Strickland test, the court believes that the appellant was prejudiced by his counsel’s deficient assistance. The court holds that Brice was denied effective assistance of counsel. OPINION:Vance, J.; before Gray, C.J., Vance and Reyna, JJ. DISSENT:Gray, C.J. “This is an attempted pro-se accelerated appeal of an order terminating the parent-child relationship, in which the attempted appellant failed to file a timely notice of appeal. Ignoring Brice’s failure to invoke this Court’s jurisdiction, the majority disregards our precedent in failing to consider Brice’s conditional constitutional right to appointed counsel on appeal, and then holds that Brice’s statutorily appointed attorney ad litem at trial failed to render effective assistance of counsel. Because the majority disregards the limits of our jurisdiction, disregards our precedents in failing to consider the matter of the appointment of counsel on appeal, and then patently errs in its determination of the issue of the assistance of counsel at trial, I respectfully but strenuously dissent.”

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