In re Interest of David L. and Cameron L.

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In re Interest of David L. and Cameron L.

Case Number
Court Number
Call Date
December 12, 2023
Case Time
9:00 AM
Case Summary

A-23-0377, In re Interest of Cameron L. and David L., children under 18 years of age. State of Nebraska v. Clarissa L. (Appellant)

Separate Juvenile Court of Lancaster County, Judge Shellie D. Sabata

Attorneys for Appellant: Abby Kuntz, Patrick Carraher, Mark Bestul, Jonathan Seagrass & Jennifer Gaughan (Legal Aid of Nebraska)

Attorney for Appellee: Tara A. Parpart (Lancaster County Attorney’s Office)

Juvenile Action: Termination of Parental Rights

Action taken by Juvenile Court: The children in this case are eligible for enrollment in the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and thus the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was applicable to the juvenile case. Throughout the case the children’s primary permanency goal was guardianship with a concurrent goal of reunification. 35 months after the children had been removed from Clarissa L.’s care, the State filed a motion to terminate her parental rights.

The Indian Child Welfare Act requires a court to consider the testimony of a Qualified Expert Witness regarding whether the continued custody of the child by the parent is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child before a court may terminate parental rights to an Indian child. At the termination hearing the State did not move to qualify an expert witness, but a clinician did generally testify to her understanding of Native values and her concerns regarding the potential emotional and physical damage to the children.

Following the trial, the juvenile court found that the State had proved by clear and convincing evidence that statutory grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of Clarissa and that the termination was in the best interests of the children. The court further found that, “as proven by qualified expert testimony,” the continued custody by Clarissa was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the children.

Assignments of Error on Appeal: Clarissa assigns that the juvenile court erred by (1) terminating her parental rights without a finding beyond a reasonable doubt, supported by qualified expert testimony, that the continued custody of the children by the parent was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the children; and (2) finding that the termination of Clarissa’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests.

Case Location
Court Type
Separate Juvenile Court
Schedule Code
Panel Text
Pirtle, Chief Judge, Moore and Arterburn, Judges