Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for
Pinellas County; Kathleen Hessinger, Judge.
Timothy M. Beasley, Pinellas Park, for Petitioner.
Neymotin, Regional Counsel, Second District, and Ngozi C.
Acholonu, Assistant Regional Counsel, Office of Regional
Conflict Counsel, Clearwater, for Respondent.
ORDER OF THE COURT.
Gift of Life Adoptions (GLA), has filed a "Request for
Written Opinion" under Florida Rule of Appellate
Procedure 9.330(a). We grant GLA's motion. The prior per
curiam dismissal dated May 23, 2018, is withdrawn, and the
attached opinion is issued in its place. No further motions
will be entertained.
Life Adoptions (GLA) is an adoption agency that is
endeavoring to facilitate a baby's adoption by a
prospective couple. As part of the adoption process, pursuant
to section 63.089, Florida Statutes (2017), GLA initiated the
underlying action to terminate the parental rights of the
baby's biological parents. The biological mother of the
baby, who had voluntarily surrendered her child to GLA for
adoption, consented to the termination of her parental
rights. The present controversy stems from the litigation to
terminate S.R.B.'s parental rights, whom GLA refers to as
"an unmarried putative biological father" of this
served S.R.B. with a notice of an intended adoption plan
while he was incarcerated in the Sarasota County
Jail. In response, S.R.B. filed a handwritten
paper in which he stated that he was the father of the baby
and that he did not waive or consent to the termination of
his parental rights. S.R.B. further stated that he was
indigent "and would like the court to appoint an
attorney to protect his right's [sic] as a parent."
When informed by the clerk of the circuit court that it could
not appoint him counsel, S.R.B. later filed a handwritten
motion for the appointment of counsel to represent him in the
then filed a motion for default, arguing that because S.R.B.
failed to comply with the statutory requirements of sections
63.062(2)(b)(2) and (3)(a), Florida Statutes (2017), his
handwritten responses were insufficient, and he had therefore
waived and surrendered any rights to the child. The circuit
court held a hearing on GLA's motion, at which S.R.B.
appeared telephonically and renewed his request for a
court-appointed attorney. Relying upon language within this
court's holding in S.C. v. Gift of Life
Adoptions, 100 So.3d 774 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012), the circuit
court felt bound to deny GLA's motion for default in
order to appoint S.R.B. counsel. GLA now challenges that
order in this timely petition for writ of certiorari.
crux of GLA's argument for certiorari relief is that the
circuit court departed from the essential requirements of law
when it appointed S.R.B. counsel and that that error visited
a material injury upon someone (GLA does not specify who)
because the appointment of counsel "delays and places at
risk" this child's prospective adoption. The
substantive question GLA raises concerning S.R.B.'s right
to counsel is a difficult one. But we cannot reach it in this
jurisdiction to issue a writ for the "extraordinary
remedy" of certiorari, Reeves v. Fleetwood Homes of
Fla., Inc., 889 So.2d 812, 822 (Fla. 2004) (quoting
Martin-Johnson, Inc. v. Savage, 509 So.2d 1097, 1098
(Fla. 1987)), is well settled. To obtain certiorari relief, a
petitioner must show "(1) a departure from the essential
requirements of the law, (2) resulting in material injury for
the remainder of the case (3) that cannot be corrected on
postjudgment appeal." Reeves, 889 So.2d at 822
(quoting Bd. of Regents v. Snyder, 826 So.2d 382,
387 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002)). "The last two elements are
jurisdictional and must be analyzed before the court may even
consider the first element." Williams v. Oken,
62 So.3d 1129, 1132 (Fla. 2011) (citing Haines City Cmty.
Dev. v. Heggs, 658 So.2d 523, 527 (Fla. 1995)). The
petition before us fails to meet either jurisdictional prong.
not cited, and we have not located, a single published
decision where a court has construed a lawyer's
representation to be, in and of itself, a cognizable, much
less irremediable, injury in a termination of parental rights
proceeding. Quite the contrary, whatever delay the presence
of an opposing attorney could be said to entail, Florida law
recognizes that indigent parents are entitled to
court-appointed counsel in a proceeding to terminate their
parental rights. Cf. J.B. v. Fla. Dep't of Children
& Family Servs., 768 So.2d 1060, 1068 (Fla. 2000)
("The right to counsel in termination of parental rights
cases is part of the process designed to ensure that the
final result is reliably correct." (citing Dep't
of Children & Family Servs. v. Natural Parents of
J.B., 736 So.2d 111, 117 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999)));
O.A.H. v. R.L.A., 712 So.2d 4, 7 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998)
("We believe that [In the Interest of D.B., 385
So.2d 83 (Fla. 1980)] mandates the appointment of counsel to
represent a non-consenting parent in a contested adoption
proceeding when the parent is indigent and his or her consent
to the adoption is sought to be excused under section
63.072(1), Florida Statutes (1993)."). And the premise
behind GLA's argument in this petition-that the presence
of a lawyer for a putative father in a contested termination
of parental rights proceeding constitutes a material
injury-strikes us as rather troubling. See generally
Penson v. Ohio, 488 U.S. 75, 84 (1988) ("The
paramount importance of vigorous representation follows from
the nature of our adversarial system of justice. This system
is premised on the well-tested principle that truth-as well
as fairness-is 'best discovered by powerful statements on
both sides of the question.'" (quoting Irving R.
Kaufman, Does the Judge Have a Right to Qualified
Counsel?, 61 A.B.A.J. 569, 569 (1975) (quoting Ex
Parte Lloyd (1822) Mont 70, 72n))); Fla. Bar v.
Dove, 985 So.2d 1001, 1010 (Fla. 2008) ("Lawyers
who undertake representation in the vital areas of adoption,
dependency, and delinquency and in other family law cases
serve interests which have unexcelled importance in the
law."). We are loathe to view what is a hallmark of
adversarial proceedings in our judicial system as a material
injury in this context.
GLA has not shown how the circuit court's order
appointing counsel results in a material injury for the
remainder of the case that cannot be corrected on
postjudgment appeal. Accordingly, we are without jurisdiction
to review GLA's petition and must dismiss it without