Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries
Therolf v. Superior Court
Petitioner, a journalist, petitioned to obtain the juvenile case file of a deceased child, whose adoptive mother was convicted of her torture and murder. Although the Madera County Department of Social Services/Child Welfare Services (“department”) filed an objection to the disclosure of the juvenile case file, the juvenile court denied Petitioner’s petition finding release of the file would be detrimental to another child directly or indirectly connected to the deceased child. The Fifth Appellate District granted the petition for writ of mandate and directed the juvenile court to vacate its orders, hold a hearing on Petitioner’s petition after ordering the department to produce the deceased child’s juvenile case file in accordance with In re Elijah S. (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 1532, 1538–1539, 1556 (“Elijah S.”), review the responsive documents in camera, and reconsider the petition applying the appropriate standards. The court wrote that it agreed the juvenile court erred when it did not allow Petitioner time to file a reply to the department’s objection and failed to hold a hearing on his petition. However, the court rejected the department’s contention that the deceased child was not within the juvenile court’s jurisdiction when she died and concur with the decision Elijah S. The court also rejected Petitioner’s contention that, contrary to its’ decision in Pack v. Kings County Human Services Agency (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 821, 831–834 (“Pack”), the juvenile court was required to make specific factual findings when making a detriment finding. But the court found the juvenile court’s failure to comply with the other procedures set forth in Pack also was prejudicial. View "Therolf v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
State v. Neukam
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court against the State on the State's delinquency petition that it filed against Anthony Neukam, holding that neither the juvenile court nor the circuit court had jurisdiction in this case.Neukam allegedly molested his young cousin both before and after he was eighteen. When Nuekam was twenty, the State brought charges against him in criminal court. When Neukam was twenty-two, the State filed a delinquency petition in juvenile court for acts Neukam allegedly committed before turning eighteen. Thereafter, the Supreme Court decided that juvenile courts lack jurisdiction over delinquency petitions once the accused is age twenty-one. The State then dismissed the juvenile case and moved to amend the criminal case to add counts of child molesting Neukam allegedly committed before he was eighteen. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that courts lack jurisdiction when an individual is alleged to have committed a delinquent act before turning eighteen but is over twenty-one when the State files charges. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed, holding that no court had jurisdiction over the charges arising from arising from Neukam's alleged misconduct before his eighteenth birthday. View "State v. Neukam" on Justia Law
Bloyer v. Commonwealth
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion seeking reconsideration of probation pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 640.075(4), holding that the provisions of Ky. Rev. Stat. 532.045 apply to render a juvenile convicted as a youthful offender of sexual offenses ineligible for probation.When he was a juvenile, Defendant was charged with multiple sex offenses and transferred to the circuit court as a youthful offender. Defendant was convicted. Shortly before he turned twenty-one, Defendant filed his motion to reconsider probation. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 532.045 applies to youthful offenders such as Defendant. View "Bloyer v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
New Jersey v. Lane
In 2020, the Legislature amended N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1 to add a new mitigating factor fourteen: “[t]he defendant was under 26 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense.” N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(14). It provided that “[t]his new act shall take effect immediately.” L. 2020, c. 110, § 2. In this appeal, the Court considers defendant Rahee Lane’s argument that the new mitigating factor should be applied to defendants who were under twenty-six years old at the time of their offenses, if their direct appeals were pending when the statute was amended. The New Jersey Supreme Court construed N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(14) to be prospective, finding in the statutory language no indication that mitigating factor fourteen applied to defendants sentenced prior to the provision’s effective date. The Court viewed N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(14)’s legislative history to confirm the Legislature’s intent to authorize sentencing courts to consider the new mitigating factor in imposing a sentence on or after the date of the amendment. View "New Jersey v. Lane" on Justia Law
In re Dezi C.
Parents of the two children at issue in a juvenile dependency case repeatedly denied having any American Indian heritage. The social services agency spoke with several of the parents’ relatives but never asked those relatives whether the children had any American Indian heritage. Nearly 30 months into the proceedings and on appeal from the termination of her parental rights, the biological mother objected that the agency did not discharge its statutory duty to inquire whether her children might be “Indian children” within the meaning of the state’s broader version of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”). The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court explained that there is no dispute that the agency did not properly discharge its statutory duty. However, the critical inquiry is whether the error was harmless and how harmlessness is to be assessed. The court offered a fourth rule: An agency’s failure to discharge its statutory duty of initial inquiry is harmless unless the record contains information suggesting a reason to believe that the children at issue may be “Indian child[ren],” in which case further inquiry may lead to a different ICWA finding by the juvenile court. Here, the court held that the error was harmless, because the record contains the parents’ repeated denials of American Indian heritage, because the parents were raised by their biological relatives, and because there is nothing else in the record to suggest any reason to believe that the parents’ knowledge of their heritage is incorrect. View "In re Dezi C." on Justia Law
In re A.B.
Santa Cruz County Human Services Department filed a juvenile dependency petition, Welfare & Institutions Code section 361(c), concerning an 11-year-old girl, then residing with her father. The whereabouts of her mother were unknown. It was alleged that father had physically abused the minor. The juvenile court ordered the minor detained, found the allegations of the petition true, and adjudged the minor a dependent of the court. Father received family reunification services for 17 months. The court found legal guardianship with the minor’s maternal grandparents to be the appropriate permanent plan, found that visitation of the minor by father would be detrimental, and ordered that father have no contact with the minor.After a contested six-month post-permanency review hearing in which the court heard testimony, it reaffirmed the detriment finding and denied visitation. Father renewed his request for visitation at the 12-month post-permanency review hearing. The juvenile court denied father’s request for a contested hearing, reaffirmed the detriment order, and denied his request for visitation. The court of appeal affirmed. Father, as the parent of a child where the permanent plan is legal guardianship, did not have an unqualified statutory right nor an unfettered due process right to a contested post-permanency review hearing. The juvenile court did not err in requiring him to make an offer of proof in support of his request for a hearing. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law
Altman v. Mississippi
At issue in this interlocutory appeal was whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear defendant Rayvon Altman's case. In August 2020, Altman was indicted in on four counts of aggravated assault in violation of Mississippi Code Section 97-3-7(a)(1) (Rev. 2020). The indictment alleged that Altman intentionally drove his motor vehicle into another vehicle, which was occupied by four people, in an attempt to injure the occupants. It was subsequently acknowledged that the occupants of the other vehicle were Altman’s mother, siblings, and stepfather. In early 2021, Altman filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the indictment should have been dismissed because the youth court had exclusive jurisdiction under Section 43-21-151 because he was under eighteen years of age at the time of the alleged offense. The Mississippi Supreme Court found both Altman and the State agreed that the deadly weapon exception was inapplicable because Section 97-37-1 did not prohibit the concealed carrying of an automobile. Thus, the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over Altman because he was a minor at the time the alleged offense was committed. The circuit court’s order was reversed and the case remanded to the circuit court for it to render a judgment dismissing Altman’s indictment and to “forward all documents pertaining to the cause to the youth court[.]” View "Altman v. Mississippi" on Justia Law
New Jersey v. Comer
Defendants James Comer and James Zarate asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to find that a mandatory sentence of at least 30 years without parole was unconstitutional as applied to juveniles. Seventeen year old Comer was sentenced in 2004 to an aggregate term of 75 years in prison with 68.25 years of parole ineligibility for his participation in four armed robberies, one of which, an accomplice shot and killed a robbery victim. Zarate was convicted of participating in a brutal murder with his older brother. At the time of his offense in 2005, Zarate was 14 years old, less than one month shy of his 15th birthday. For the murder conviction, the court sentenced Zarate to life imprisonment, subject to an 85-percent period of parole ineligibility under the No Early Release Act (NERA), with consecutive sentences for two additional offenses. After weighing other statutory factors, Zarate was resentenced for murder to 50 years in prison. The Supreme Court reversed in both cases: "The statutory framework for sentencing juveniles, if not addressed, will contravene Article I, Paragraph 12 of the State Constitution. To remedy the concerns defendants raise and save the statute from constitutional infirmity, the Court will permit juvenile offenders convicted under the law to petition for a review of their sentence after they have served two decades in prison. At that time, judges will assess a series of factors the United States Supreme Court has set forth in Miller v. Alabama, which are designed to consider the 'mitigating qualities of youth.'" View "New Jersey v. Comer" on Justia Law
In the Interest of T.B.
The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme Court's review centered on whether a child charged with delinquency based on an alleged violation of Georgia’s Criminal Code could assert an affirmative defense of insanity or delusional compulsion, under OCGA §sections 16-3-2 or 16-3-3, in a juvenile-court proceeding. The Georgia Supreme Court found that the Juvenile Code did not expressly state whether affirmative defenses provided for in the Criminal Code were available in juvenile court. Based on the Juvenile Code’s text and structure, however, the Court concluded that insanity and delusional-compulsion defenses were available in most delinquency proceedings, specifically holding that in a delinquency proceeding, a child could assert an insanity or delusional-compulsion defense under OCGA sections 16-3-2 or 16-3-3 when the child’s delinquency charge is based on an allegation that the child committed “[a]n act . . . designated a crime by the laws of this state.” Because the juvenile court erred in concluding that a child could never raise an insanity or delusional-compulsion defense in a delinquency proceeding, the Supreme Court vacated the court’s order denying the motion of T.B. which sought a forensic psychological evaluation for purposes of raising a defense under OCGA 16-3-2 or 16-3-3. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Interest of T.B." on Justia Law
People v. Padilla
The Supreme Court held that Proposition 57, a measure that amended the law governing the punishment of juvenile offenses in adult criminal court by requiring hearings to determine whether the offenses should instead by hearing in juvenile court, applied during resentencing where the criminal court sentence imposed on Defendant, a juvenile offender, was issued before the initiative's passage but was since vacated.Defendant was originally sentenced before Proposition 57 was enacted, but his sentence was later vacated on habeas corpus, and the case was returned to the trial court for imposition of a new sentence. At issue was whether Proposition 57 applied to Defendant's resentencing. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal, holding that Proposition 57 applied to Defendant's resentencing because the judgment in his case became nonfinal when his sentence was vacated on habeas corpus. View "People v. Padilla" on Justia Law