IN THE PUYALLUP TRIBAL COURT OF APPEALS
PUYALLUP INDIAN RESERVATION
In Re RLG
Puyallup Children’s Services, Petitioner/Appellee.
NO. PUY-CV-AP-2023-0003 (July 11, 2023)
APPELLANT APPEALS trial court orders entered on June 9, 2022, and December 2, 2022. This Court held oral arguments via video conference on May 23, 2023. Appellant asks this court to reverse the court below and both (1) return the child-at-interest to Appellant’s home for an in-home dependency, and (2) reinstate the guardian ad litem previously named, then dismissed, by the trial court.
Puyallup Tribal Code 4.16.400 sets forth as follows:
“Except as provided, the decision of the trial court will be reversed, modified, or remanded only:
(a) Where there has been an abuse of discretion that prevented a party from receiving a fair trial;
(b) Where there has been misconduct by the prosecution, Judge, or jury;
(c) Where there has been error as to interpretation and/or application of the law by the Judge;
(d) Where the verdict or decision is contrary to the law and the evidence;
(e) Where there has been newly discovered relevant evidence that was not available at the time of the trial.” Puyallup Tribal Code 4.16.400.
Appellant maintains that the court below failed to apply the proper standard in its decision to continue an out-of-home placement of the child. Puyallup Tribal Code § 7.04.780 speaks to child placement review hearings, requiring that a child must be returned to the home unless the court finds that a reason to continue an out-of-home placement, based on the standards for removal of children from their homes established by Puyallup Tribal Code § 7.04.601. The trial court indicated its belief that removal under the standard was justified, by checking the box in item number 15 of the Order on Review Hearing, effectively holding that a reason consistent with § 7.04.601 still exists. More specific details, such as which of the factors listed in § 7.04.601 still exist, are not provided until Item 22 in the Order on Review Hearing, the place on the form Order for “Other Findings.” In the discussion under Item 22, the trial court made findings that effectively identify conditions that qualify grounds for removal under § 7.04.601 (c) and (g) by explaining how Appellant is not at the present time able to provide necessary supervision for the child’s well-being because of ongoing issues with the child’s behavior and therapy, and how the child is likely to suffer emotional damage due to the same issues. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion or act arbitrarily, and it applied the correct standard to reach its decision.
The form the court uses to record its decisions in this type of case would benefit from editing to make it more clear which of the standards of § 7.04.601 continue to exist, rather than just allowing a checked box in item 15 to count as a finding as serious as this when a child’s well-being is at stake. A better design for the form would facilitate more specific findings correlated to the provisions of § 7.04.601.
Appellant seeks to have this court reinstate the guardian ad litem first named to, then dismissed from, this case by the trial court. Puyallup Tribal Code Puyallup Tribal Code § 7.04.210 authorizes the court to appoint a guardian ad litem in a case in order to represent the interest of the child. The Code is silent as to dismissal of guardians ad litem once they are appointed, but the power to remove a guardian ad litem, with or without agreement from any party to the case, must necessarily be included with the power of appointment. Otherwise, guardians ad litem who will not or cannot meet their obligations to the children they represent would nonetheless remain in place even if they actually jeopardized the very interests they were appointed to represent.
For the reasons discussed above, we deny Appellant’s requests to (1) reverse the lower court’s Orders and place the child in Appellant’s care at this time, and (2) reinstate the dismissed guardian ad litem. This appeal is hereby DISMISSED.