JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A Jefferson County judge declined to postpone proceedings and instead terminated a father's parental rights as he struggled to connect to the virtual hearing, a decision the state's second-highest court has now reversed.
District Court Judge Ann Gail Meinster should have granted the request to postpone the February 2021 hearing, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals decided, after the father, identified as R.B., was present but had difficulty connecting to public wireless Internet. Allowing R.B. to be heard was in his child's interest, the panel observed, and there was no indication that a delay would have been egregious.
"To the contrary, the record reveals that he was making efforts to secure Wi-Fi access so that he could participate in the hearing," wrote Judge Craig R. Welling in the Jan. 6 opinion. "Yet, other than briefly pausing the hearing, the court didn’t facilitate father’s efforts to personally participate in this hearing. This is significant."
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