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In re Nikeerah S.

NEW YORK SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT


January 7, 2010

IN RE NIKEERAH S., A CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN YEARS, ETC.,
AND BARBARA S., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT,
HALE HOUSE CENTER, INC., PETITIONER-RESPONDENT.

Order, Family Court, New York County (Susan K. Knipps, J.), entered on or about October 2, 2007, which, upon a fact-finding of permanent neglect, terminated respondent mother's parental rights and transferred custody and guardianship of the subject child to petitioner for the purpose of adoption, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Gonzalez, P.J., Mazzarelli, Buckley, Renwick, Abdus-Salaam, JJ.

Any failure to assign counsel for the fact-finding hearing was occasioned solely by the mother's persistent decision to absent herself from the proceedings, despite being given several opportunities to appear and despite actual knowledge of every scheduled court date (see Matter of Starasia C., 18 AD3d 213 [2005], appeal dismissed 5 NY3d 824 [2005]; Matter of Joshua K., 272 AD2d 160 [2000], appeal dismissed 95 NY2d 959 [2000]; Matter of Amy Lee P., 245 AD2d 1136 [1997]).

When the mother subsequently appeared for the dispositional hearing, counsel was appointed; the decision not to seek vacatur of the fact-finding determination did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel, since the mother lacked either a reasonable excuse for her default or a meritorious defense (see Matter of "Male" Jones, 128 AD2d 403 [1987]).

Family Court properly determined that the best interests of the child would be served by termination of parental rights, rather than a suspended judgment (see Matter of Albert E., 259 AD2d 315 [1999]).

THIS CONSTITUTES THE DECISION AND ORDER OF THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT.

20100107

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