NJ DCP&P v. A.O.J.

The Appellate Division perhaps intended this opinion to caution judges more than attorneys. DCP&P filed a complaint to terminate AOJ’s parental rights regarding her two children. AOJ’s involvement with DCP&P went back to her own childhood and DCP&P was involved with her as a mother while she was still pregnant with her youngest child. AOJ had a troubled life, to say the least. She had an attorney provided to her through the Public Defender’s Office, but that relationship soured over the course of many years. Eventually, the judge granted that attorney’s oral motion to be withdrawn. The judge then advised AOJ — whom he knew to be broke and socially challenged — to hire an attorney. He also referred to the attorney’s departure form the case as AOJ firing the attorney. Whatever the case, after a bench trial in which AOJ was not represented, the judge terminated her parental rights. The Appellate Division reversed, seemingly finding nothing adequate about the manner in which this case was handled by the court below.