IN THE MATTER OF L.G.
No. 02 J 281
Peter Wood, for respondent-appellant.
J. David Abernethy, for petitioner-appellee Catawba County Department of Social Services.
Respondent Marilyn W. is the mother of L.G., a minor child. On 7 October 2002, Catawba County Department of Social Services (DSS) filed a petition alleging that L.G. was an abused and neglected juvenile, and the court entered an order for nonsecure custody. On 17 December 2002, the court held an adjudication hearing and by consent found L.G. to be abused and neglected and granted custody to DSS. DSS moved to terminate respondent's parental rights to her daughter L.G. Following a disposition hearing on 29 June 2004, the court terminated respondent's parental rights. Respondent appeals. As discussed below, we affirm the termination.
On adjudication, the court found that respondent had used marijuana weekly while pregnant with L.G. and tested positive formarijuana, Xanax, and Valium on admission to the hospital to give birth. L.G. suffered from low birth weight, apnea and eating problems. In the fall of 2002, L.G. was present during a drug raid that turned up drugs and drug paraphernalia. In October 2002, L.G. was in respondent's car when Jerry W. G., a male acquaintance of respondent, broke the rear window with a rock, showering L.G. with glass; respondent then stabbed Jerry W. G. in the chest. Later that day, respondent was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. On 14 January 2003, the court entered an order that respondent not threaten, harass or intimidate the placement provider. Respondent tested positive for marijuana on 7 February 2003. On 19 February 2003, the court ceased reunification efforts after respondent refused a drug test, was discharged from her drug and alcohol treatment program following an altercation, left her job, and completed a nurturing class with such a low score that additional classes were recommended. At the permanency planning hearing on 3 June 2003, the court found that respondent had violated the non-harassment order, was not working, was in arrears for child support, and selected adoption as the permanency plan. Respondent refused drug screens four times in November and December 2003, and also submitted diluted drug test samples.
Respondent first argues that the evidence was insufficient to support findings 11, 14, 18, 20-22, 24-30 and 34 of the judgment and order of adjudication. We disagree.
The standard of review in termination of parental rights cases is whether the findings of fact are supported by clear,cogent and convincing evidence and whether these findings, in turn, support the conclusions of law. In re Shepard, 162 N.C. App. 215, 221, 591 S.E.2d 1, 6 (2004) (quoting In re Clark, 72 N.C. App. 118, 124, 323 S.E.2d 754, 758 (1984)). Finding 11 reads:
11. That another domestic violence incident occurred in early October 2002 involving Jerry W. G. and the mother, Marilyn W. Both parties were aggressors with Jerry W. G. , [sic] throwing rocks and Marilyn Jane W. stabbing Jerry W. G. L. G. was present in a car during this domestic violence incident.
Respondent contends that this finding is not supported by clear, cogent and convincing evidence, and that she was not an aggressor in this incident, but instead acted only in self-defense. The right to act in self-defense rests upon necessity, real or apparent, and a person may use such force as is necessary or apparently necessary to save himself from death or great bodily harm in the lawful exercise of his right of self-defense. State v. Marsh, 293 N.C. 353, 354, 237 S.E.2d 745, 747 (1977). Respondent's own testimony reveals that, following an angry confrontation with Jerry W. G., she got into her car to leave, and as she pulled out of the driveway, Jerry W. G. threw rocks through her back window. Petitioner then got out of the car, leaving L.G. on the front seat, and when Jerry W. G. approached, getting ready to punch her, she stabbed him. These facts suggest that respondent could have continued to drive away from Jerry W. G., putting herself and her daughter out of danger. Instead, respondent got out of the car to confront Jerry W. G. We concludethat the evidence supports finding 11, and does not support respondent's contention that she acted in self-defense.
Regarding the other challenged findings, we note that respondent's brief does not argue that findings 14, 18, 20-22, 24- 30, and 34 are not supported by clear cogent and convincing evidence. Instead, she argues that additional or different facts should have been found. For example, respondent asserts that the court should have recognized that she consistently made reasonable efforts to stay employed, but failed through no fault of her own. Because respondent fails in her brief to actually challenge the findings to which she assigns error, these findings are binding on appeal.
Respondent also assigned error to findings of fact 5, 7-10, 12, 13, 15-17, 19, 23 and 33, but did not discuss them in her brief. Thus, they are deemed abandoned. N.C. R. App. P. 28(a).
Respondent next argues that conclusions of law 3, 4, and 5 of the judgment and order of adjudication were not supported by the findings of fact. We disagree.
As discussed above, the only finding of fact actually challenged by respondent is supported by the evidence. Thus, the court's findings are binding on appeal. In re Beasley, 147 N.C. App. 399, 405, 555 S.E.2d 643, 647 (2001). The trial court need only substantiate one statutory ground in order to terminate parental rights pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a). In conclusion 5, the court determined that respondent failed to make reasonable progress under the circumstances in correcting thoseconditions which led to the removal of L.G. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(2). The court found that respondent made at best extremely limited progress in correcting the conditions that led to her daughter's removal. See In re B.S.D.S., 163 N.C. App. 540, 594 S.E.2d 89 (2004). The court also found that respondent had been ejected from a drug treatment class, had positive drug tests, refused to take drug tests, and gave diluted drug test samples. The findings here support the court's conclusions of law. See In re Shepard, 162 N.C. App. at 221, 591 S.E.2d at 6.
Conclusion 4 states another ground for terminating respondent's parental rights. Because we conclude that the grounds discussed in conclusion 5 are supported by the findings, we need not address support for conclusion 4. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a) (2001).
One section of respondent's brief purports to challenge various findings of the termination disposition order. However, because respondent fails to actually discuss any of these findings in her brief, they are deemed abandoned pursuant to N.C. R. App. P. 28(a).
Respondent also argues that the court abused its discretion in terminating her parental rights. Given the existence of statutory grounds for termination and the continuing instability of respondent's life, including substance abuse and employment difficulties, we see no abuse of discretion in the court's action.
Judges HUNTER and GEER concur. Report per Rule 30(e).
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