Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries
In re M.B.
Appellant the mother of six-year-old M.B., appealed the August 31, 2021 order terminating her parental rights, contending the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services failed to adequately investigate her claim of Indian ancestry through interviews with maternal relatives and the notices sent to the Blackfeet Tribe failed to include the birthdates of M.B.’s maternal grandfather and great-grandfather as required by federal regulations implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. Section 1901 et seq.) and related California law. The Department argued that Appellant’s appeal of the adequacy of its investigation has been mooted by further interviews with maternal relatives and that any omission of required information from the ICWA-030 notices sent to the Blackfeet Tribe was harmless because its post-appeal investigation established ICWA notices were not required. The Second Appellate District affirmed the May 13, 2021 order denying Appellant’s section 388 petition. However, the court conditionally affirmed the August 31, 2021 section 366.26 order terminating Appellant’s parental rights. The court explained that rather than attempt to moot Appellant’s appeal by belatedly conducting the investigation required by section 224.2, the Department’s proper course of action was to stipulate to a conditional reversal with directions for full compliance with the inquiry and notice provisions of ICWA and related California law. Further, the court wrote for its part, the juvenile court failed to ensure the Department adequately investigated M.B.’s Indian ancestry, far more is required than passively accepting the Department’s reports as fulfilling its statutory obligations. View "In re M.B." on Justia Law
State v. X.S.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals to reverse the judgment of the circuit court denying the State's request to have X.S. waived into adult court and to remand the case, holding that remand was not required for a new waiver hearing because a new waiver hearing was unnecessary.X.S. was charged with eight counts of first-degree reckless injury with use of a dangerous weapon for opening fire in Mayfair Mall located outside Milwaukee. The Sate sought to have X.S. waived into adult court instead of remaining in juvenile court. The circuit court denied the request, but the court of appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new waiver hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed but remanded the case to the circuit court with instructions to grant the State's waiver petition, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by denying the waiver petition. View "State v. X.S." on Justia Law
Keefe v. State
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district court in this criminal case, holding that the district court adequately considered evidence of Defendant's post-offense rehabilitation under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and imposed a constitutional sentence by striking a parole restriction.When he was seventeen years old, Defendant was charged with burglary and three counts of deliberate homicide. Defendant was convicted of all counts and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without parole. Defendant later filed a successful postconviction petition seeking resentencing under Miller. After a resentencing hearing, the district court sentenced Defendant to three consecutive life terms at MSP without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court remanded the case. On remand, the district court resentenced him to three life sentences and did not restrict Defendant's eligibility for parole. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court complied with the Court's instructions on remand in Keefe II and imposed a legal sentence. View "Keefe v. State" on Justia Law
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