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In re M.D.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

May 9, 2019

In the Interest of M.D., a Child

          On Appeal from the 235th District Court Cooke County, Texas Trial Court No. CV17-00736

          Before Birdwell, Pittman, and Bassel, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Wade Birdwell Justice.

         M.D.'s Father appeals from the trial court's judgment terminating his parental rights for endangerment and failing to complete a court-ordered service plan. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), (b)(2). We affirm.

         Father's appointed appellate counsel has filed a motion to withdraw and an amended brief in support of that motion in which she asserts that Father's appeal is frivolous. See Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744-45, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 1400 (1967); see also In re K.M., 98 S.W.3d 774, 776-77 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 2003, no pet.) (holding that this court applies Anders procedures in parental-rights termination cases). The amended brief meets Anders's requirements by presenting a professional evaluation of the record and demonstrating why there are no arguable grounds to be advanced on appeal.[1] Although provided with the record, Father has not filed a pro se response. The State has declined to file a brief.

         Once an appellant's court-appointed attorney files a motion to withdraw on the ground that the appeal is frivolous and fulfills the requirements of Anders, this court is obligated to undertake an independent examination of the record to determine if any arguable grounds for appeal exist. See Stafford v. State, 813 S.W.2d 503, 511 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991); Mays v. State, 904 S.W.2d 920, 922-23 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 1995, no pet.). When analyzing whether any grounds for appeal exist, we consider the record, the Anders brief, and any pro se response. In re Schulman, 252 S.W.3d 403, 408-09 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008) (orig. proceeding).

         We have carefully reviewed counsel's amended brief and the appellate record. Finding no reversible error, we agree with counsel that this appeal is without merit. See Bledsoe v. State, 178 S.W.3d 824, 827 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005); In re D.D., 279 S.W.3d 849, 850 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2009, pet. denied). Therefore, we affirm the trial court's order terminating Father's parental rights to M.D.

         Because counsel's motion to withdraw does not show good cause for the withdrawal independent from counsel's conclusion that the appeal is frivolous, we deny the motion. See In re P.M., 520 S.W.3d 24, 27-28 (Tex. 2016) (order); In re C.J., 501 S.W.3d 254, 255 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 2016, pets. denied). Accordingly, counsel remains appointed in this appeal through proceedings in the supreme court unless otherwise relieved from her duties for good cause in accordance with family code section 107.016(3)(C). P.M., 520 S.W.3d at 27.

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Notes:

[1]We ordered counsel to file an amended brief because the analysis referred only to an unrelated criminal case rather than the record in this termination appeal. Although counsel's amended Anders brief still contains references that appear to be from a prior criminal case rather than specifically related to this case, we are nevertheless satisfied that counsel reviewed the record in this case under the proper standards and law. See Kelly v. State, 436 S.W.3d 313, 318 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014) ("The purpose of the Anders brief is to satisfy the appellate court that the appointed counsel's motion to withdraw is, indeed, based upon a conscientious and thorough review of the law and facts . . . ."); see also In re P.M., 520 S.W.3d 24, 27 (Tex. 2016) (order) (noting that counsel in termination appeal may satisfy obligation to client by "filing an appellate brief meeting the standards set in Anders v. California, and its progeny" (footnote omitted)); In re N.F.M., No. 04-18-00475-CV, 2018 WL 6624409, at *3-4 (Tex. App.--San Antonio Dec. 19, 2018, order) (en banc) (discussing uniform standards for Anders briefing in criminal appeals and concluding that the same standards apply to Anders briefs in termination appeals). For example, although counsel's amended brief still refers to the criminal standard of review for sufficiency of the evidence rather than the applicable clear and convincing standard, the clear and convincing standard is an ...


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