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Posted by: Amelia Ferrell Knisely on Jan 29, 2016

Head Comment: SHARON G. LEE, C.J., with whom GARY R. WADE, J., joins, concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Rebecca McKelvey Castañeda (discretionary appeal), Nashville, Tennessee, and Mark A. Free (appeal as of right and at trial), Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Vanessa G.

Attorneys 2:

Herbert Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; Mary Byrd Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General; and C. Nicholas Fossett, Assistant General Counsel, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services.

Judge(s): CLARK

We granted review in this case to decide (1) whether an indigent parent‘s right to appointed counsel in a parental termination proceeding includes the right to challenge an order terminating parental rights based on ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel; and (2) whether the Court of Appeals must review any ground the trial court relied on to terminate parental rights when a parent fails to raise all grounds for termination on appeal. We hold that parents are constitutionally entitled to fundamentally fair procedures in parental termination proceedings. Nevertheless, this constitutional mandate does not require us to adopt a procedure by which parents may collaterally attack orders terminating parental rights based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Additionally, we hold that appellate courts must review a trial court‘s findings regarding all grounds for termination and whether termination is in a child‘s best interests, even if a parent fails to challenge these findings on appeal. Having reviewed the record on appeal in accordance with these holdings, we affirm the trial court‘s judgment terminating the mother‘s parental rights.