Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 255th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas, Trial Court Cause No. DF-08-10464
Justices Bridges, Evans, and Schenck.
a bench trial, the trial court signed a judgment terminating
the parent-child relationship between C.E.C. and her father.
On appeal, Father raises three issues in which he contends
(1) the order of termination is not supported by the
evidence, (2) the trial court erred by continuing the trial
without his participation in the proceedings, and (3) the
evidence is legally and factually insufficient for the trial
court to terminate his parental rights and that such
termination is in the best interest of the child. We reverse
on the procedural, second issue and do not address the merits
of this case.
26, 2016, C.E.C.'s paternal grandmother filed an original
petition to terminate the parent-child relationship of
Father. On January 1, 2016, Grandmother was married. On July
7, 2016, Grandmother and her husband (petitioners) filed a
first amended petition. On July 20, 2016, petitioners filed a
second amended petition in which they sought to terminate
both parents' parental rights and adopt C.E.C. At the
final hearing on September 20, 2016, Father appeared by his
attorney's cell phone for trial due to his incarceration.
Father advised the trial court that he did not believe his
appointed attorney was acting in his best interest and asked
to represent himself. Father's attorney submitted an oral
motion to withdraw which the trial court granted. Because
Father's attorney need to leave with his cell phone, the
trial court then advised Father that he had five minutes to
call back into the court or the court would move forward with
the trial. Before the call was terminated, Father advised the
trial court that "the institution is having an issue
with their phone service" and the "phone service
has an issue with calling long distance." The trial
court waited for Father to call in and, after twenty-four
minutes, the trial resumed without Father's telephonic
presence. On October 10, 2016, Father filed a motion to
reconsider and rehearing in which he alleged he was harmed by
not being allowed to participate in the trial. On October 20,
2016, the trial court signed a final order terminating
Father's parental rights. On November 8, 2016, Father
filed a second request to reconsider and to request a
rehearing. Father now appeals from the trial court's
order of termination.
second issue, Father contends that he was denied due process
of law under the United States Constitution and due course of
law under the Texas Constitution. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV,
§ 1; Tex. Const. art. I, § 19. Specifically, Father
asserts that he was denied a fair trial because he was not
permitted to participate either by counsel or by
Deprivation of Procedural Due Process
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
protects against deprivation of life, liberty, or property by
the State "without due process of law."
See U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The Texas Constitution
provides that "[n]o citizen of this State shall be
deprived of life, liberty, property, privileges or
immunities, or in any manner disfranchised, except by the due
course of the law to the land." Tex. Const. art. I,
§ 19. The Texas "due course" and federal
"due course" have been interpreted to be
"without meaningful distinction." In re
R.M.T., 352 S.W.3d 12, 17 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2011, no
pet.). Therefore, Texas courts have traditionally followed
federal due process interpretations of procedural due
due process guarantees the right to a fair procedure.
Id. In analyzing a claim of deprivation of
procedural due process, we apply a two-part test: (1) whether
the complaining party has a liberty or property interest
entitled to protection; and (2) if so, what process is due.
Logan v. Zimmerman, 455 U.S. 422, 428 (1982).
Parents have a fundamental liberty interest "in the
care, custody, and management of their child."
Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753 (1982). This
fundamental liberty interest does not evaporate simply
because the parents have not been "model parents or have
lost temporary custody of their child to the State."
recognized that a constitutionally-protected parent-child
relationship is at stake, we now turn to what process is due
to Father. The proper test for analyzing the
constitutionality of a procedure in the parental rights
termination context is the three-part balancing test
established in Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319
(1976). Santosky, 455 U.S. at 754. The balancing
test includes the consideration of the following factors: (1)
the private interest affected by the proceeding or official
action; (2) the countervailing governmental interest
supporting use of the challenged proceeding; and (3) the risk
of an erroneous deprivation of the private interest due to
the procedures used. Eldridge, 424 U.S. at 335.
Courts must weigh these factors to determine whether the
fundamental requirements of due process have been met by
affording an opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and
in a meaningful manner under the circumstances of the case.
In re D.W., 498 S.W.3d 100, 112 (Tex. App.-Houston
[1st Dist.] 2016, no pet.).
The Eldridge Factors
Private interests ...