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In re M.M.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division

April 21, 2015

In re M.M., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
v.
A.W., Defendant and Appellant. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. DK04990, Philip L. Soto, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Roni Keller, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Mark J. Saladino, County Counsel, Dawyn R. Harrison, Assistant County Counsel, and Kim Nemoy, Principal Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

PERLUSS, P. J.

A.W. appeals from the juvenile court’s jurisdiction findings and disposition order adjudging her four-year-old son, M.M., a dependent of the juvenile court, removing him from A.W.’s care and custody and placing him with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) for suitable placement. A.W. contends the juvenile court erred in proceeding with the contested jurisdiction and disposition hearing in her absence and there was, in any event, insufficient evidence M.M. was at substantial risk of serious physical harm. The Department concedes A.W. had a right to be present at the jurisdiction and disposition hearing but argues “any alleged errors” were harmless. We reverse.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. The Dependency Petition and the Detention Report and Hearing

In a petition filed May 13, 2014, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b) (failure to protect) and (g) (no provision for

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support), [1] the Department alleged A.W. had taken M.M. with her when she went to solicit sex and then, while incarcerated on charges of prostitution, failed to make an appropriate plan for his ongoing care and supervision.[2]

The detention report stated A.W. (then 27 years old) had been arrested for prostitution near the intersection of Lankershim Boulevard and Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood, a high traffic prostitution area, in the early evening of May 7, 2014. Undercover vice officers observed A.W., wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and purple leggings, walking on Lankershim Boulevard and turning her head from side to side monitoring the traffic. According to the officers, A.W. seemed to be paying special attention to cars with one man inside-actions consistent with that of a prostitute. One of the officers posed as a potential customer and made eye contact with A.W. He drove his car to the parking lot of a fast food outlet a short distance away where he and A.W. continued to make eye contact. At this point, A.W. came up to the passenger window of the officer’s unmarked car, looked inside and then walked away. A.W. then went over to a Lexus in the same parking lot and entered the car. The car drove away.

Officers followed the Lexus. A.W. got out on another street, and the Lexus proceeded to a different parking lot. The officers approached the vehicle and found M.M. in the back seat. He was wearing two shirts (one long sleeve) but no jacket or socks notwithstanding the inclement weather; M.M. had a bump on the side of his head. His diaper was subsequently described as soiled and soaking wet.

According to the police report, the driver of the Lexus, Keven L., confirmed to the officers that A.W. was working as a prostitute and described himself as her supervisor. Keven L. was arrested for human trafficking and child endangerment; A.W. was arrested for loitering for the purpose of prostitution. The detention report identified Keven L. as A.W.’s “boyfriend/pimp” and stated A.W. and M.M.’s father had “extensive criminal history with several felony and misdemeanor convictions.” The attached ...


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