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Sunday, April 30, 2017

DCPP VS. R.L.M. AND J.J. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF R.A.J. A-2849-15T2/A-3277-15T2


DCPP VS. R.L.M. AND J.J. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF R.A.J.
          A-2849-15T2/A-3277-15T2
In this termination of parental rights (TPR) case, the father contends he was entitled to a new trial because he was denied his constitutional right of self-representation, which he argued is a corollary to the right to counsel under N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. B.R., 192 N.J. 301, 306 (2007). While the constitutional right to procedural due process gives rise to the right to counsel in TPR cases, there is no corollary right of self-representation, unlike in criminal cases under the Sixth Amendment. Furthermore, any non-constitutional right to proceed pro se under Rule 1:21-1(a) or arguably implied by N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.4(a) may be relaxed if the court concludes that the parent's pro se efforts would significantly undermine the interests of the child, the State and the court in an accurate result without undue delay. Also, any denial of such non- constitutional right is not a structural error requiring a new trial. Finally, the father did not assert his alleged right of self-representation unequivocally or timely.