Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries
In re H.M.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying the motion filed by H.M., a youth held in detention, seeking to dismiss a formal petition brought by the State to adjudicate H.M. as a delinquent youth, alleging one count of misdemeanor resisting arrest and three counts of assault on a police officer, holding that the district court did not err in denying the motion.As grounds to dismiss the petition H.M. argued that the State filed it one day beyond the seven-day time limit for such petitions against detained youths in Mont. Code Ann. 41-5-1401(2). The youth court declined to dismiss the petition, concluding that the State had good cause to file the petition and to detain H.M., outside the seven-day deadline. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the good cause exception in section 41-5-1401(2) applies to the youth court's decision not to dismiss an untimely petition charging a youth held in detention; and (2) the youth court properly denied H.M.'s motion to dismiss. View "In re H.M." on Justia Law
California v. Bratton
At age 16, defendant Tory Bratton confessed to robbing a local market, with an accomplice, shooting the clerk dead, and taking $184. At his trial, his counsel argued that defendant’s confession was false and that he did not participate in the robbery at all. However, trial counsel did not argue that, even if defendant did participate, he was not the shooter. Defendant was convicted of (among other things) first degree murder, with a personal firearm use enhancement and felony-murder special circumstances. He appealed; the Court of Appeal affirmed. When defendant filed a petition to vacate the murder conviction under Penal Code section 1172.6, the trial court denied it; it ruled that the Court of Appeal's opinion in defendant’s direct appeal showed that he was the actual killer. The State conceded that this was error, but that the error was harmless because the record of conviction established defendant was the actual killer. Anticipating this response, defendant argued that, under standard principles of issue preclusion (a/k/a collateral estoppel), preclusion did not apply here because: (1) Whether defendant was the shooter was not actually litigated; (2) Trial counsel had an incentive not to contest whether defendant was the shooter; (3) The significance of whether defendant was the shooter was small at trial but, due to the then-unforeseeable enactment of section 1172.6, has since become great; (4) Section 1172.6 was a significant change in the law that warranted reexamination of whether defendant was the shooter. The Court of Appeal agreed that standard principles of issue preclusion applied here. However, the Court held that the issue of whether defendant was the shooter was actually litigated. Moreover, trial counsel did have an incentive to contest this issue; evidently, he simply made a tactical decision not to. Because trial counsel did have an incentive to contest the issue, it did not matter that it was unforeseeable that the issue would have additional future consequences. And finally, while section 1172.6 was a significant change in the law, the Legislature intended that it not constitute an exception ipso facto to issue preclusion. View "California v. Bratton" on Justia Law
Washington v. Reynolds
Michael Reynolds Jr. received a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for a crime he committed at age 33. The events triggering that sentence, though, were his two “strikes” under Washington’s “three strikes” law—one of which Reynolds committed at age 17, when he was a juvenile. If Reynolds’ current sentence constituted punishment for his earlier offense committed at age 17, then it would be unconstitutional under case law. But under the Washington Supreme Court’s more recent precedent, his current sentence did not constitute punishment for that prior offense. In Washington v. Moretti, decided two years after Bassett, the Supreme Court held that a “three strikes” sentence of mandatory life in prison without possibility of parole constituted punishment for the last crime or third “strike,” not the earlier first or second “strikes.” “And for years, we have held that our state’s ‘three strikes’ law as applied to adults does not violate article I, section 14.2 That assessment could certainly change over time. But in this case, the parties have not asked us to overrule it.” The Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Washington v. Reynolds" on Justia Law
Elisa W. v. City of New York
Plaintiffs-appellants, nineteen children in New York City’s foster care system, filed suit alleging “systemic deficiencies” in the administration of the City’s foster care system in violation of federal and state law. The named Plaintiffs moved to represent a class of all children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of the Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and two subclasses. As remedies, they sought injunctive and declaratory relief to redress alleged class-wide injuries caused by deficiencies in the City’s administration—and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ oversight—of foster care. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis of the commonality and typicality requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded. The court held that the district court erred in its analysis of commonality and typicality under Rule 23. The court explained that the district court did not determine whether commonality and typicality exist with respect to each of Plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, it concluded that commonality was lacking as to all alleged harms because “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not flow from unitary, non-discretionary policies.” The court held that this approach was legal error requiring remand. Further, the court wrote that here, the district court largely relied upon its commonality analysis to support its finding that typicality was not satisfied. Thus, the deficiencies identified in its commonality inquiry can also be found in its handling of typicality. View "Elisa W. v. City of New York" on Justia Law
United States v. A.R.
The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court ordering A.R., who was adjudicated delinquent in a proceeding under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), 18 U.S.C. 5031-5042, detained in a juvenile institution until he reached the age of twenty-one, followed by a term of juvenile delinquent supervision, holding that remand was required.A.R., who was born in 2003, was adjudicated delinquent pursuant to his admission of aiding and abetting an attempted robbery of a motor vehicle and five carjackings, each of which would have been a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2119 had A.R. been an adult. On appeal, A.R. primarily challenged the district court's order of a detention period rather than a probationary one. The First Circuit affirmed as to the court's imposition of detention but reversed and remanded as to two other matters, holding (1) A.R.'s disposition was both procedurally and substantively reasonable; (2) the district court erred in failing to recommend that A.R. be placed in a local detention facility; and (3) the district court erred in imposing a term of detention and supervision that together exceeded the applicable statutory maximum. View "United States v. A.R." on Justia Law
South Carolina v. Miller
Petitioner Robert Miller, III was convicted of murdering eighty-six-year-old Willie Johnson. Following the murder, Petitioner—who was fifteen years old at the time—confessed four times: twice to his close friends and twice to law enforcement. All four confessions were admitted at trial, three without objection. This appeal centered around the voluntariness of Petitioner's fourth and final confession to two agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). After examining the totality of the circumstances surrounding the fourth confession, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that Petitioner's free will was not overborne, and his confession was voluntary. It therefore affirmed. View "South Carolina v. Miller" on Justia Law
Marriage of C.D. & G.D.
C.D. (Mother) appeals from the trial court’s post-judgment order granting a request from G.D. (Father) that she enroll their minor daughters in public school. Mother contends the order must be vacated because, without a change in custody, Father has no decision-making authority regarding their daughters’ education. The Second Appellate District agreed with Mother and vacated the order. The court explained that A parent with “sole legal custody” has “the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” Here, Father requested a say in his daughters’ education by asking the trial court to order Mother to enroll them in public school. But because Mother has sole legal custody of the girls, Father has no right or responsibility concerning their education. To obtain those, Father had to secure joint legal custody by showing a significant change in circumstances. The court explained that the trial court erred when it granted Father’s request for an order directing Mother to send their daughters to public school. Prior to issuing such an order, the trial court was required to find that Father demonstrated a change in circumstances warranting modification of its initial custody order. Not making that finding was an abuse of discretion. View "Marriage of C.D. & G.D." on Justia Law
In re Jerry R.
A.R. (Father) and S.R. (Mother) appealed from the juvenile court’s orders terminating their parental rights to three of their children, under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26.1. Father’s sole claim, joined by Mother, is that because Stanislaus County Community Services Agency (agency) failed to conduct a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry into whether the children are or may be Indian children, the juvenile court erred when it found that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) did not apply. The Fifth Appellate District conditionally reversed the juvenile court’s finding that ICWA does not apply. The court explained that Section 224.2, subdivision (b), imposes on the county welfare department a broad duty to inquire whether a child placed into the temporary custody of the county under section 306 is or may be an Indian child. The court explained that at issue is whether a child taken into protective custody by warrant under section 340, subdivision (a) or (b) falls within the ambit of section 306, subdivision (a)(1). The court explained that based on the plain language of the statutes, it agrees with Delila D. that the answer is yes and, therefore, the inquiry mandated under section 224.2, subdivision (b), applies. The court further concluded that the juvenile court erred in finding the agency conducted a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry and that the error is prejudicial, which necessitates a conditional reversal of the court’s finding that ICWA does not apply and a limited remand so that an inquiry that comports with section 224.2, subdivision (b), may be conducted. View "In re Jerry R." on Justia Law
Marriage of C.D. & G.D.
G.D. (Father) appealed the judgment approving the dissolution of his marriage to C.D. (Mother), granting her full custody of their minor daughters and barring all visitation. Father contends the custody and visitation orders attached to the judgment should be vacated. Father contends the custody and visitation orders should be vacated because there was insufficient evidence that he sexually abused F.D. and S.D. To him, only an evaluation conducted pursuant to section 3118 could provide the evidentiary basis necessary to permit the trial court to find that he abused his daughters. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that There are several problems with Father’s contentions. First, the trial court’s decision not to order a section 3118 evaluation was made, at least in part, at Father’s behest. Second, even if Father had not invited any error, he could not show prejudice. Third, no section 3118 evaluation was required here. If a trial court appoints a child custody evaluator and “determines that there is a serious allegation of child sexual abuse,” it must order a section 3118 evaluation. The court explained that the trial court below did not determine there had been a serious allegation of child sexual abuse. It was thus not required to order a section 3118 evaluation. Fourth, Section 3118 requires a trial court to order an evaluation when it appoints a child custody evaluator and determines there has been a serious allegation of child sexual abuse. But section 3118 also grants a court the discretion to order an evaluation when abuse allegations arise in other contexts. View "Marriage of C.D. & G.D." on Justia Law
In re V.C.
In December 2019, the Alameda County Social Services Agency filed a petition (Welfare and Institutions Code 300(b)(1) and (j)) regarding infant V.C., with allegations that his mother tested positive for methamphetamine at V.C.’s birth, resulting in V.C. experiencing withdrawal symptoms. A social worker had spoken with both parents, who each “denied any Native American ancestry.” Both parents completed and filed “Parental Notification of Indian Status” forms, checking the box: “I have no Indian ancestry as far as I know,” under penalty of perjury.In March 2020, the juvenile court found the allegations true, declared the children dependents, removed them from parental custody, and ordered reunification services, concluding that each child “is not an Indian child and no further notice is required under” the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. 1901). In February 2021, the court terminated reunification services, set a section 366.26 hearing, and again concluded that ICWA did not apply. On remand for a new hearing concerning the beneficial relationship exception, the juvenile court again terminated parental rights, found “ICWA does not apply,” and identified adoption as the children’s permanent plan.The court of appeal conditionally reversed. The agency failed to comply with ICWA by not asking available extended family members about possible Indian ancestry. View "In re V.C." on Justia Law