In re M.W.
Filed 4/20/07 In re M.W. CA1/3
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS
California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT
In re M.W., et al., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
CONTRA COSTA DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES,
Plaintiff and Respondent,
Defendant and Appellant.
(Contra Costa County
Super. Ct. No. J05-02000)
These dependency proceedings were initiated in November 2005 when a Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 petition was filed and six-month-old M.W. was initially detained from parental custody. Her mother, Carla, submitted to jurisdiction on the social workers report. She was offered reunification services, and M.W. was adjudged a ward of the court.
In its status report for the six-month review hearing, the Contra Costa Department of Children and Family Services (Department) stated that Carla had worked hard on her reunification plan. She had produced consistently negative drug tests, had kept all therapy appointments and had completed a program (Born Free) that included classes in parenting, domestic violence and anger management. Carla also kept all scheduled visits with the child, during which she behaved in a loving and appropriate manner. Nevertheless, because there were some concerns about Carlas continuing relationship with the childs father and other concerns, the Department recommended against returning M.W. to her mothers custody at that time.
At a contested review hearing held September 28, 2006, the juvenile court found a substantial risk of detriment to the child if she were returned home. (Welf. & Inst. Code, 361, subd. (c)(1).) However, the court also found that Carla had made substantial progress on her case plan, and there was a substantial probability the child would be returned to her custody at the next review hearing. Carla filed a timely notice of appeal from the September 28, 2006 order. The sole argument raised in Carlas opening brief, filed January 23, 2007, is that the court erred in not returning M.W. to her custody at the six-month review hearing.
The Department now moves to dismiss the appeal on the ground that the issue raised therein is moot. At the Departments request, we take judicial notice of an order made by the juvenile court on February 16, 2007. At the 12-month review hearing, the court ordered that M.W. be returned to parental custody, with family maintenance services provided by the Department. Carla did not file an opposition to the motion.
As a general rule, an appeal presenting only abstract or academic questions is subject to dismissal as moot. (In re Jody R. (1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 1615, 1621.) In the dependency context, we must review questions of mootness on a case-by-case basis, because such an appeal is not moot if the purported error is of such magnitude as to infect subsequent proceedings, or if the error may undermine the juvenile courts initial jurisdictional finding. (In re Dani R. (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 402, 404-405; In re Joshua C. (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 1544, 1547.)
Stressing her meticulous compliance with all aspects of her case plan, Carlas appeal challenged only the trial courts decision not to return M.W. to her custody at the six-month hearing. Because the court did order the child to be returned to Carla at the February 2007 review hearing, Carla has now obtained the goal she sought, and there is no further relief this court can afford her. [A]n action that originally was based on a justiciable controversy cannot be maintained on appeal if all the questions have become moot by subsequent acts or events. A reversal in such a case would be without practical effect, and the appeal will therefore be dismissed. (9 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (4th ed. 1997) Appeal, 642, p. 669.) Accordingly, Carlas appeal from the September 28, 2006 order must be dismissed as moot.
The appeal is dismissed.
Publication Courtesy of San Diego County Legal Resource Directory.
Analysis and review provided by El Cajon Property line Lawyers.
 Although M.W. was released to her mother, she was removed again in January 2006.