A-28 September Term 2011, 068542

59 A.3d 576 (2013)

213 N.J. 1

NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. A.L., Defendant-Appellant. In the Matter of the Guardianship of T.L. and A.D., minors.

Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Decided February 6, 2013.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Clara S. Licata , Designated Counsel, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender Parental Representation, attorney; Ms. Licata, Beatrix W. Shear and T. Gary Mitchell , Deputy Public Defenders, of counsel and on the briefs).

James D. Harris , Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent New Jersey Department of Children & Families, Division of Youth and Family Services ( Jeffrey S. Chiesa , Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney; Andrea M. Silkowitz and Melissa H. Raksa , Assistant Attorneys General, of counsel).

Noel C. Devlin , Assistant Deputy Public Defender, Law Guardian, argued the cause for Respondents T.L & A.D. ( Joseph E. Krakora , Public Defender, attorney).

Jeyanthi C. Rajaraman argued the cause for amicus curiae Legal Services of New Jersey ( Melville D. Miller, Jr. , President, attorney; Ms. Rajaraman , Mr. Miller and Mary M. McManus-Smith , on the brief).

Lawrence S. Lustberg argued the cause for amici curiae Experts and Advocates in Maternal and Fetal Health, Child Welfare, Public Health and Drug Treatment ( Gibbons , attorneys; Mr. Lustberg and Emma S. Ketteringham , a member of the New York bar, on the briefs).

Chief Justice RABNER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a case of statutory interpretation. The question presented is whether a court can find "abuse" or "neglect" of a child under Title 9 if an expectant mother uses drugs during pregnancy but there is no evidence of actual harm when the baby is born. To determine the answer, we do not start with a clean slate. Instead, we interpret a comprehensive legislative scheme relating to child welfare and look to...


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