Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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The State appealed a trial court's orders granting respondent Brandon Brown’s (defendant) petition for writ of habeas corpus, vacating his sentence, and resentencing him to 16 years eight months in prison, which was eight years shorter than his original sentence. The trial court granted his writ petition because his strike for carjacking as a juvenile did not qualify as a strike under Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) and Penal Code section 667(d)(3). The trial court also concluded that defendant’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) by not objecting to the strike during sentencing. The State contended on appeal that the trial court erred in granting defendant’s writ petition because: (1) defendant’s juvenile carjacking adjudication qualified as a strike under the 2006 law; (2) the trial court erred in applying California v. Gallardo, 4 Cal.5th 120 (2017), retroactively; (3) the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction by vacating the carjacking strike entered in Los Angeles (case No. VA 076709) and Orange County (case No. 03NF1824) cases; (4) defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective, because the record of conviction established defendant’s carjacking adjudication qualified as a strike; and (5) defendant’s delay in filing his writ petition prejudiced the People’s ability to oppose it. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court did not err in applying Gallardo retroactively and granting defendant’s writ petition on the ground defendant’s juvenile carjacking adjudication did not qualify as a strike. Therefore, the Court concluded it did not need to address the State's additional IAC challenge. Furthermore, the Court rejected the State’s other objections and affirmed the writ petition order and judgment. View "In re Brown" on Justia Law

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After committing crimes when he was seventeen years old, defendant Atorrus Rainer was convicted of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of first-degree burglary, and one count of aggravated robbery. For these crimes, the district court sentenced Mr. Rainer to 224 years in prison. On direct appeal, the convictions were affirmed. But the Colorado Court of Appeals ordered modification of the sentences, concluding that the prison terms for attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault should have run concurrently, rather than consecutively, because the crimes could have been based on identical evidence. The Colorado Court of Appeals thus modified Mr. Rainer’s sentences to run for 112 years. After the direct appeal, the Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), that the Eighth Amendment prohibited life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of nonhomicide crimes. Under Graham, these juveniles were entitled to a meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. Defendant sought habeas relief, claiming the State of Colorado deprived him of this opportunity by imposing the 112-year sentence for the crimes he committed as a juvenile. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the State provided defendant with the required opportunity through the combination of the Juveniles convicted as Adults Program, and the general parole program. View "Rainer v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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Nevik Howard, when sixteen years old, was convicted of first-degree assault (a crime of violence) and first-degree criminal trespass after his case was transferred from juvenile court to district court. During the sentencing hearing, Howard argued that he was subject to a more severe penalty for a crime of violence conviction under the transfer statute than he would be if this were a direct-file case because direct-filed juveniles were exempted “from the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in [the crime of violence statute],” whereas transferred juveniles were not. To address that equal protection concern, the district court determined that the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute would not apply in this transfer proceeding, just as they would not have applied in a direct-file proceeding. The court further determined, however, that this ruling did not make Howard eligible for probation. Instead, the court concluded that the statutory scheme only allowed either: (1) a youth offender services (“YOS”) sentence with a suspended Department of Corrections (“DOC”) sentence; or (2) a DOC sentence. The court ultimately sentenced Howard to six years in YOS with a suspended fifteen-year DOC sentence. Howard, appealed, arguing the district court erred in its reasoning. The court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review, affirming the court of appeals, but on different grounds. The Supreme Court held that under the facts of this case, there was no equal protection violation because neither direct-filed juveniles nor transferred juveniles convicted of crimes of violence were eligible for probation, and the district court did not apply the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute. Hence, Howard was treated the same as a direct-filed juvenile would have been with regard to probation and the applicable sentencing range. View "Howard v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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A juvenile court found that Amber had committed felony assault by force likely to produce great bodily harm, adjudged her a ward of the court, and imposed conditions of probation. The conditions included a requirement that she submit her electronic devices to warrantless searches of any medium of communication likely to reveal whether she is complying with the conditions of her probation. The court of appeal held that the condition is appropriate but too broad to withstand scrutiny. It imposes a burden that is not proportionate to the legitimate interest it serves of ensuring that Amber does not have contact with a specific person. View "In re Amber K." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the district court's order denying a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking body cam footage and other related records regarding juveniles and then-State Senator Aaron Ford's interaction with the police due to the confidentiality of juvenile justice records, holding that the petition was correctly denied as to all portions of the bodycam footage but that the district court erred in granting the petition as to the other requested records. Officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) arrested numerous juvenile suspects after responding to an incident. Ford, a parent of one of the suspects, arrived at the scene. The Republican Attorneys General Association's (RAGA) requested records from LVMPD related to the incident in accordance with the Nevada Public Records Act. LVMPD refused the request, citing Nev. Rev. Stat. 62H.025 and 62H.030 to justify its assertion of confidentiality. RAGA petitioned for a writ of mandamus. The district court denied the petition. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the district court (1) did not err in finding that all portions of requested bodycam footage contained confidential juvenile justice information; but (2) failed sufficiently to assess whether the other requested records contained any nonconfidential material. View "Republican Attorneys General Ass'n v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the appellate court dismissing a minor's appeal challenging the juvenile court's neglect of its mandatory duty under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 702 to declare a wobbler offense to be a misdemeanor or a felony, holding that the minor may not bring such a challenge in an appeal from a later dispositional order after the time to appeal the original disposition expired. Two wardship petitions were filed against G.C. alleging that G.C. committed three wobbler offenses. G.C. admitted all three allegations. The court, however, did not declare on the record whether the offenses were felonies or misdemeanors. Thereafter, G.C. was adjudged a ward and placed on probation. G.C. did not appeal the disposition. After G.C. violated the terms of her probation the juvenile court maintained G.C. in her mother's custody under the supervision of the probation department with various conditions. G.C. appealed, arguing that the court failed expressly to declare whether the offenses were misdemeanors or felonies. The appellate court determined that the issue was not timely raised. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that although section 702 is mandatory, noncompliance did not make the original dispositional order an unauthorized sentence that could be corrected at any time. View "In re G.C." on Justia Law

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Ali shot and killed three people during an attempted robbery in Minneapolis. He was given three consecutive life sentences, each permitting his early release after 30 years so that Ali must remain in prison for at least 90 years. Relying on recent Supreme Court precedent, Ali argued that the Eighth Amendment forbids life-without-parole sentences for juvenile defendants unless they are irreparably corrupt and that a sentencing court must conduct a hearing to consider the juvenile defendant’s youth as a mitigating factor before imposing a life-without-parole sentence. Ali claimed his sentence was the “functional equivalent” of life-without-parole. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Ali’s argument. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Ali’s petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Ali’s case is distinguishable from the Supreme Court cases; Ali received three life sentences for three separate murders, each permitting possible release. Ali does not face a life-without-parole sentence and the Supreme Court has not “clearly established” that its ruling apply to consecutive sentences functionally equivalent to life-without-parole. View "Ali v. Roy" on Justia Law

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In December 2018, E.F. (minor) and L.S. were ninth graders enrolled in the same art class in high school. For unknown reasons, minor offered L.S. a Cup of Noodles, microwaved it, and handed it to him. When L.S. went to drink the broth, it smelled of bleach and he threw it out. The juvenile court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) and, subsequently, a three-year restraining order against E.F., charged with poisoning one of her high school classmates. Among other things, this appeal presents the following question: Is a prosecutor seeking a TRO under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5 required to give advance notice of her intent to do so (or is notice at the hearing where the TRO is requested sufficient)? The court in In re L.W., 44 Cal.App.5th 44 (2020) held that advance notice is required. The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding that express language in section 213.5 authorized courts to authorize TROs without notice in advance of the hearing. “The minor appearing at the arraignment with counsel is still notified of the prosecutor’s TRO application and has the opportunity to oppose the application. Because due process guarantees notice and the opportunity to be heard, the issuance of TROs under section 213.5 accords with due process and thus provides no basis to read section 213.5 in a counter- textual manner to avoid possible constitutional infirmity.” View "In re E.F." on Justia Law

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Tajay Johnson and Kevin Hairston were both convicted by jury of one count of second degree robbery, one count of carjacking, one count of kidnapping to commit robbery, and one count of kidnapping for the purpose of carjacking. Johnson was 17 years old when he committed the offenses. Charges were originally filed against him in criminal court. However, after voters enacted Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 during the pendency of the criminal proceeding, Johnson’s case was transferred to juvenile court to determine whether he was fit to proceed as a juvenile or should be tried as an adult. Both defendants were ultimately sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for each of the kidnapping offenses. The sentences for robbery and carjacking were stayed under Penal Code section 654. The Court of Appeal agreed with defendants and the State that carjacking was a necessarily included lesser offense of kidnapping for the purpose of carjacking, and therefore reversed defendants’ convictions for carjacking. The Court further agreed with both parties that the abstracts of judgment had to be amended and that defendants’ sentences needed to be clarified. Defendants also challenged the imposition of various fines and fees as due process violations under California v. Dueñas, 30 Cal.App.5th 1157 (2019). The Court concluded some of those claims were forfeited, and as to the remainder any error was harmless. A $40 crime prevention fine was stricken as unauthorized. Johnson singly argued that with respect to his being tried as an adult, he had a statutory right to a waive the juvenile fitness hearing, and his attorney could not do so in his behalf. The Court disagreed with Johnson's contention. The matter was remanded for correction of abstract, and for imposition of a statutorily mandated $10 fine instead. View "California v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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On rehearing en banc, the Fourth Circuit reversed the judgment and remanded with instructions to grant plaintiff's motion to set aside the agency's final action denying plaintiff special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status. In this case, USCIS interpreted 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) (i) to require a permanent custody order and thus denied plaintiff's SIJ application, dismissing his administrative appeal. The court held that the agency's rejection of plaintiff's SIJ provision -- that clause (i) requires a permanent custody order -- is entitled to no deference, defies the plain statutory language, and impermissibly intrudes into issues of state domestic relations law. Because the agency's interpretation of clause (i) was not in accordance with law, the court remanded to the agency to take another look at plaintiff's SIJ application. View "Perez v. Cuccinelli" on Justia Law