The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of C.N., a Child, and Concerning A.N., Respondent-Appellant, and Concerning A.F. & S.F., Intervenors-Appellees.
Jefferson County District Court No. 15JV572 Honorable Ann
Gail Meinster, Judge
G. Wakeman, County Attorney, Sarah Oviatt, Assistant County
Attorney, Golden, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee
Office of Kurt A. Metsger, Samantha Metsger, Kurt Metsger,
Denver, Colorado, for C.N.
Harris Law Firm P.C., Katherine O. Ellis, Denver, Colorado,
& Eirich LLC, Timothy J. Eirich, Lakewood, Colorado, for
1 In this dependency and neglect proceeding, A.N.
(grandmother) appeals the juvenile court's order placing
C.N. (child) permanently with her foster parents. We affirm.
2 In June 2015, the Jefferson County Division of Children,
Youth, and Families filed a petition in dependency and
neglect due to concerns about mother's mental health. The
newborn child was placed in foster care, and mother's
parental rights were terminated a year later. A division of
this court affirmed the judgment and a mandate was issued on
February 28, 2017. People in Interest of C.N.,
(Colo.App. No. 16CA1206, Jan. 19, 2017) (not published
pursuant to C.A.R. 35(e)).
3 In February 2017 - a year and a half after the child was
born and eight months after mother's parental rights were
terminated - grandmother filed a motion to intervene in the
case. Shortly thereafter she filed a motion for the child to
be placed with her. The juvenile court held a contested
hearing on the motion and found that it was in the
child's best interest to permanently remain with the
foster parents. The court also terminated grandmother's
visitation with the child. On the day of the contested
hearing, the grandmother filed a petition for kinship
adoption of the child, but the court refused to accept its
filing in the dependency and neglect case.
4 The foster parents adopted the child in January 2018.
Real Party in Interest and Standing
5 Grandmother contends on appeal that mother did not receive
reasonable accommodations to address her mental health
issues, such as the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL),
and that mother needed assistance in notifying relatives of
the termination proceeding. She also argues that the child
had a fundamental right of association with grandmother.
Grandmother asserts that, as an intervenor in the case, she
is a real party in interest regarding these issues.
6 C.R.C.P. 17(1) requires that every action be prosecuted by
the real party in interest. The real party in interest
"is that party who, by virtue of substantive law, has
the right to invoke the aid of the court in order to
vindicate the legal interest in question." Summers
v. Perkins, 81 P.3d 1141, 1142 (Colo.App. 2003).
7 We construe grandmother's argument to be that she has
standing to raise issues concerning mother and the child.
Standing is a jurisdictional prerequisite that may be raised
at any stage of the proceeding. Hickenlooper v. Freedom
from Religion Found., Inc., 2014 CO 77, ¶ 7.
"Because 'standing involves a consideration of
whether a plaintiff has asserted a legal basis on which a
claim for relief can be predicated,' the question of
standing must be determined prior to a decision on the
merits[.]" Id. (quoting Bd. of Cty.
Comm'rs v. Bowen/Edwards Assocs., Inc., 830 P.2d
1045, 1052 (Colo. 1992)).
8 To have standing, a plaintiff must have (1) suffered an
injury in fact (2) to a legally protected interest.
C.W.B. v. A.S., 2018 CO 8, ¶ 18. The legally
protected interest requirement recognizes that "parties
actually protected by a statute or constitutional provision
are generally best situated to vindicate their own
rights." City of Greenwood Village v. Petitioners
for Proposed City of Centennial, 3 P.3d 427, 437 (Colo.
9 Whether a party has standing to proceed is a question of
law we review de novo. Hickenlooper, ¶ 7.
10 Grandmother does not cite to substantive law granting her
standing to assert the rights of mother and the child.
Indeed, our courts have consistently held that in dependency
and neglect appeals, parents and intervenors lack standing to
assert the rights of other parties. See People in
Interest of J.M.B., 60 P.3d 790, 792 (Colo.App. 2002)
(father lacked standing to challenge the appropriateness of
mother's treatment plan); People in Interest of
E.S., 49 P.3d 1221, 1223 (Colo.App. 2002) (mother lacked
standing to raise issues regarding the stepfather's party
status); see also People in Interest of J.A.S., 160
P.3d 257, 261 (Colo.App. 2007) (one parent does not have
standing to raise issues regarding the propriety of
termination of the other parent's rights).
11 Grandmother also lacks standing to assert the child's
rights. The Children's Code statutorily obligates the
child's GAL to advocate for the child's best
interests and expressly authorizes the GAL to participate at
all steps of the legal proceeding, including on appeal.
§ 19-3-203, C.R.S. 2018; C.W.B., ¶ 24.
Absent indication that the GAL is unable or unwilling to
advocate for the child's best interests, courts will not
confer standing to assert the rights of the child to
intervening parties. C.W.B., ¶ 36.
12 Accordingly, we conclude that grandmother lacks standing
to raise the issues on appeal ...