Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016PA00461 Honorable Antonia Arteaga, Judge
Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice
Irene Rios, Justice
G. appeals the trial court's order terminating her
parental rights to five of her children, L.J.G., G.J.G.,
Z.I.G., A.A.G., and L.G.-R.F. Christy G. contends the trial
court erred in granting the motion to strike her request for
a jury trial as a sanction for her failure to attend
court-ordered mediation. Christy G. also contends the
evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the
trial court's finding that termination of her parental
rights was in the children's best interest. We sustain
Christy's first issue and reverse the portion of the
trial court's order terminating Christy's parental
rights. We remand the cause to the trial court for further
March 3, 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services filed a petition seeking to terminate Christy
G.'s parental rights. On that same day, Rosie Reyes was
appointed as Christy G.'s attorney ad litem. On March 16,
2016, however, the trial court granted Reyes's motion to
withdraw and appointed Byron Barnett to represent Christy G.
Christy G. personally appeared at the hearing on temporary
orders on March 29-30, 2016, and at the status hearing on
April 27, 2016.
G. also personally appeared at the permanency hearing before
final order on August 24, 2016. The following day, Christy G.
filed a timely request for a jury trial.
December 5, 2016, the trial court signed an order referring
the case to mediation on May 15, 2017. The order stated,
"A violation of this Order shall be punished by contempt
of Court, which is punishable by confinement in the County
Jail for up to six (6) months and a fine of up to $500."
December 30, 2016, the trial court sent a notice that the
cause was set for a jury trial on June 19, 2017. Christy G.
personally appeared at a permanency hearing before final
order on March 22, 2017.
April 17, 2017, the children's attorney and guardian ad
litem filed a motion to modify temporary orders based on
Christy G.'s failure to appear for a hair follicle test
and concerns that continued contact between Christy G. and
the children would be detrimental to the children's
mental and emotional health. Specifically, the motion
referred to Christy's G.'s erratic behavior and the
emotional trauma the oldest child was experiencing after
family therapy. The motion requested that Christy G.'s
visits with the children and family therapy be terminated.
G. did not personally appear at the hearing on the motion to
modify which was held on April 24, 2016; however, she
appeared through her attorney of record. The trial court
granted the motion to modify, terminating the family therapy
and Christy G.'s visits with the children.
5, 2017, Christy G.'s attorney ad litem filed a motion to
withdraw stating he was "unable to effectively
communicate with Christy [G.] in a manner consistent with
good attorney-client relations." On May 10, 2017, the
trial court signed an order granting the motion to withdraw.
On May 11, 2017, the trial court signed an order appointing
Monica Guerrero as Christy G.'s attorney ad litem. The
mediation was held on May 15, 2017.
9, 2017, the Department filed a motion for continuance of the
June 19, 2017 trial date. On June 15, 2017, the trial court
signed a pre-trial scheduling order resetting the trial to
July 10, 2017. The order also stated that "mediation is
ordered prior to July 6, 2017."
7, 2017, the Department filed a motion to strike the jury
demand/setting as a sanction for Christy G.'s failure to
attend the May 15 court-ordered mediation. On July 10, 2017,
Christy G.'s attorney ad litem filed a motion for
continuance stating she was recently appointed and did not
have sufficient time to prepare. The motion also stated
Christy G. did not appear at the mediation because of medical
problems requiring hospitalization.
10, 2017, the case proceeded to trial. After some discussion
off the record, the trial court went on the record noting
Christy G.'s attorney had filed a motion for continuance
and asked the other attorneys to identify themselves for the
record. The trial court then recapped the off-the-record
discussion stating the trial court heard Christy G.'s
motion for continuance off the record, noting a conversation
between Christy G. and her attorney in which Christy G.
stated she missed the mediation because she was in the
hospital. The trial court also noted that Guerrero was
appointed as Christy G.'s attorney ad litem on May 11,
2017, and the mediation was scheduled for May 15, 2017. The
following exchange then occurred regarding Christy G.'s
failure to appear at the mediation:
THE COURT: …. And let the record reflect that after
the Court inquired, it turns out mom was hospitalized, but it
was at Easter, not during the mediation timeframe.
Would that be correct ma'am?
[CHRISTY G.]: I was not told about the ...