IN RE: Nikeerah S.

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

IN RE: Nikeerah S., A Child Under the Age of Eighteen Years, etc., Barbara S., Respondent-Appellant, Hale House Center, Inc., Petitioner-Respondent.

671

Decided: January 07, 2010

Gonzalez, P.J., Mazzarelli, Buckley, Renwick, Abdus-Salaam, JJ. Steven N. Feinman, White Plains, for appellant. Law Office of Alayne Katz, P.C., Irvington (Dana Forster-Navins of counsel), for respondent.

Karen Freedman, Lawyers for Children, Inc., New York (Dawn O'Brien-Gans of counsel), and Proskauer Rose LLP, New York (William H. Weisman of counsel), Law Guardian.

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Order, Family Court, New York County (Susan K. Knipps, J.), entered on or about October 2, 2007, which, upon a fact-finding of permanent neglect, terminated respondent mother's parental rights and transferred custody and guardianship of the subject child to petitioner for the purpose of adoption, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

Any failure to assign counsel for the fact-finding hearing was occasioned solely by the mother's persistent decision to absent herself from the proceedings, despite being given several opportunities to appear and despite actual knowledge of every scheduled court date (see Matter of Starasia C., 18 AD3d 213 [2005], appeal dismissed 5 NY3d 824 [2005];  Matter of Joshua K., 272 A.D.2d 160 [2000], appeal dismissed 95 N.Y.2d 959 [2000];  Matter of Amy Lee P., 245 A.D.2d 1136 [1997] ).

When the mother subsequently appeared for the dispositional hearing, counsel was appointed;  the decision not to seek vacatur of the fact-finding determination did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel, since the mother lacked either a reasonable excuse for her default or a meritorious defense (see Matter of “Male” Jones, 128 A.D.2d 403 [1987] ).

Family Court properly determined that the best interests of the child would be served by termination of parental rights, rather than a suspended judgment (see Matter of Albert E., 259 A.D.2d 315 [1999] ).

THIS CONSTITUTES THE DECISION AND ORDER

OF THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT.

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CLERK