Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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Leon, age 15, was declared a ward of the juvenile court after admitting to six felonies, including sex crimes. He was placed at a residential treatment facility. Leon turned 18 years old and was returned to juvenile hall after a probation violation. He was later committed to the Youthful Offender Treatment Program. Leon then transitioned into juvenile court as a nonminor dependent through the extended foster care program and entered into a transitional independent living plan, which required him to attend an education program, or be employed. In 2019, Leon moved into a transitional housing placement plus foster care (THP+FC) facility. The juvenile court later terminated Leon’s nonminor dependency, finding that he was not participating in AB12 in good faith and was not residing in his THP+FC placement. California's Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB12), allows nonminor dependents to remain under juvenile court dependency jurisdiction and receive financial assistance until age 21 if they comply with statutory requirements. Leon is now 21 years old.The court of appeal concluded the appeal is not moot because a reversal could still afford Leon effective relief in the form of certain documentation. While the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Leon failed to meet AB12 eligibility requirements, the order terminating dependency jurisdiction must be remanded to ensure compliance with the procedural requirements of section 391(a)–(c), (h) in the form of the provision of certain information, documents, and services. View "In re Leon E." on Justia Law

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Johnathan was adjudicated a delinquent minor under 705 ILCS 405/5-701 after he was found guilty of 10 counts of the offense of aggravated criminal sexual assault against a seven-year-old victim. During his sex offender evaluation, Johnathan stated that his lawyer did not return calls, that they “didn’t talk” and that he was never prepared for the stand. On appeal, Jonathan argued that the circuit court erred because it did not conduct a “Krankel” preliminary inquiry regarding his pro se claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.The Illinois Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred in not conducting a “Krankel” hearing. The Krankel procedure applies in juvenile proceedings and is triggered when a defendant raises a pro se posttrial claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. A pro se defendant only has to bring his claim to the trial court’s attention and is not required to file a written motion. The procedure applies even though the defendant has retained counsel. Johnathan clearly stated that his attorney was not doing something that he should have been doing. A juvenile in a juvenile delinquency proceeding need do nothing more than bring his pro se claim to the attention of the court. View "In re Johnathan T." on Justia Law

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The children, born in 2016 and 2017, were taken into protective custody in July 2020 after their younger sibling, R., suffered non-accidental fatal head injuries while in the care of their father. Continuances, due in part to the pandemic, significantly delayed the jurisdiction and disposition hearings, which took place in February and May 2021. The juvenile court found there was a substantial risk of detriment to the children if returned to Mother’s care, ordered their removal from her physical custody, and ordered family reunification services for her. The court granted the Department of Family and Children’s Services' unopposed request to combine the six-month and 12-month review hearings. While the appeal was pending, the juvenile court held the 18-month review hearing and returned the children to Mother on a plan of family maintenance.The court of appeal affirmed. in light of the strict statutory limits set out in the dependency scheme, Mother failed to establish error with respect to combining the six-month and 12-month hearings. Mother’s claim that she faces the potential loss of a full and fair opportunity to reunify in the event the children are removed again is not ripe for review. Mother has not shown that her trial counsel’s failure to object to the setting of the combined review hearing was deficient or prejudicial. View "In re M.F." on Justia Law

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In November 2018, the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services filed a petition (Welfare and Institutions Code section 3001) relative to three-year-old A.L. A.L. was living with her father; she was placed into protective custody after her father left A.L. with a daycare provider for several days without making arrangements for her care. Father was in custody. The Department could not locate A.L.’s mother. In March 2019, the juvenile court declared A.L. a dependent child, removed her from her father’s care, and ordered family reunification services. Father received services for 16 months. In July 2020, the court terminated those services and scheduled a selection and implementation hearing (section 366.26). Father then filed a section 388 petition. seeking the return of A.L. to his care. In January 2021, after a combined hearing on the 388 petition and selection and implementation, the court found A.L. adoptable and terminated the father’s parental rights.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying the father’s claim of the beneficial parental relationship exception to adoption and did not apply the correct legal standard by basing its determination that the exception did not apply on the finding that father did not occupy a strong parental role in A.L’s life. View "In re A.L." on Justia Law

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The court of appeal affirmed an order terminating parental rights over eight-year-old Eli and his sister, seven-year-old A.B., who have been living together in foster care for nearly four years. After noting that the father has died, the court proceeded on the merits and rejected an argument that the juvenile court erred in declining to apply the beneficial relationship exception concerning either parent. In light of all of the circumstances, the juvenile court had the discretion to weigh the harms and benefits of terminating the mother’s parental rights in the manner that it did, even if the children had a significant, positive emotional bond to her. Substantial evidence supports the juvenile court’s determination that the mother did not prove the existence of a significant, positive emotional attachment with either child. The juvenile court could infer from one violent incident, and the lack of judgment mother displayed on that occasion with a different child, that her anger and inability to control her aggression could potentially have a detrimental influence on Eli’s and A.B.’s mental health, if not also their physical safety were she ever to expose them to continued domestic violence. View "In re Eli B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition sought by T.J. to dismiss the state's prosecution against him without prejudice so that the circuit court's juvenile division may adjudicate the charges against him, holding that T.J. was not entitled to the writ.The State charged T.J. in the court of general jurisdiction with committing three felony offenses when he was seventeen years old. T.J. filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the juvenile division had the exclusive authority to adjudicate the charges against him pursuant to legislation enacted in 2018. The circuit court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the juvenile division did not have the statutory authority to adjudicate the charged offenses. View "State ex rel. T.J., v. Honorable Cundiff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing without prejudice the state's prosecution against R.J.G., who was alleged to have committed several felony offenses when he was seventeen years old, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing the state's prosecution in the court of general jurisdiction.The state charged R.J.G. with felony offenses in a court of general jurisdiction. R.J.G. filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the circuit court's juvenile division had the exclusive statutory authority to adjudicate the charges pursuant to legislation enacted in 2018. The circuit court agreed and sustained the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the law as it existed at the time R.J.G. was alleged to have committed the offenses governed which division had the authority to adjudicate the offenses; and (2) the juvenile division did not have the statutory to adjudicate the offenses in this case, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing the state's prosecution in the court of general jurisdiction. View "State v. R.J.G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed certification order of the family court division releasing and discharging J.T.J. from the jurisdiction of the family court and allowing his case to be transferred to a court of general jurisdiction for trial as an adult, holding that there was no error.A juvenile officer filed a petition in the family court alleging that J.T.J., a juvenile, committed second-degree burglary, first-degree property damages, and misdemeanor stealing. The juvenile officer subsequently filed motions to modify alleging more counts and requesting the transfer of jurisdiction of J.T.J. After a certification hearing, the family court ordered J.T.J. transferred to the court of general jurisdiction. On appeal, J.T.J. argued that the family court erred in entering its certification order because the transfer of jurisdiction of a juvenile is not permitted to allow prosecution under the general law upon the filing of a motion to modify. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that J.T.J. was not prejudiced, and therefore, relief under plain error review was unavailable. View "In re J.T.J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court finding that Juvenile committed acts that would constituted first-degree statutory sodomy if committed by an adult, holding that the circuit court erroneously declared and applied the law in admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's right to confrontation.Prior to his adjudication hearing, Juvenile filed an objection to a virtual adjudication and request to appear in person, arguing that he had a constitutional and statutory right to face-to-face confrontation of witnesses against him. The objection was overruled, and the court held the hearing in a "hybrid" format that utilized videoconferencing technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the hearing, the circuit court sustained the allegation of first-degree statutory sodomy beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the circuit court's general statements concerning COVID-19 did not satisfy the requisite standard for admitting two-way video testimony, in violation of Juvenile's confrontation rights. View "In re C.A.R.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court finding that J.A.T. committed acts that would constitute first-degree assault and armed criminal action if committed by an adult, holding that requiring J.A.T. to attend the adjudication hearing via two-way live video violated his constitutional rights to due process and confrontation.While J.A.T. repeatedly asserted his right to be physically present at his adjudication hearing to defend himself, the circuit court required J.A.T. to attend his adjudication hearing via two-way video to limit the exposure of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding (1) generalized concerns about the COVID-19 virus may not override a juvenile's due process right to be physically present for his juvenile adjudication hearing at which his guilt or innocence will be determined; and (2) the circuit court erred in requiring J.A.T.'s attendance and participation via two-way video, in violation of J.A.T.'s due process right to be physically present at his adjudication hearing. View "In re J.A.T." on Justia Law