Justia Juvenile Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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
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
In re N.F.
Defendant-Mother appealed the juvenile court’s order denying her post-permanency Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 petition that asked the court to grant her reunification services with her thirteen-year-old son N.F. The juvenile court terminated its dependency jurisdiction over N.F. in January 2021 after appointing paternal uncle as his legal guardian. Mother does not contest the merits of the court’s denial of her section 388 petition. Rather, she argued the juvenile court’s legal guardianship order must be reversed because the court and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) did not comply with their initial inquiry duties under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and related California law.The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Mother had the right to appeal from the court’s legal guardianship order, including the court’s implicit finding it continued to have no reason to know N.F. was an Indian child and the Department had satisfied its duty of ICWA inquiry. However, the time to so do expired many months ago. The court explained that Mother cannot now use her appeal from her post-permanency section 388 petition to challenge the legal guardianship order and findings made at the section 366.26 hearing—including the finding that ICWA did not apply. Further, the court explained that as the juvenile court did not vacate its order terminating its dependency jurisdiction over N.F. when it heard Mother’s section 388 petition—and a section 300 petition was not being filed on N.F.’s behalf—the court’s and the Department’s continuing duty of inquiry under section 224.2 was not implicated. View "In re N.F." on Justia Law
In re T.F.-G.
In the midst of a group contacted by officers for smoking cannabis on the street, 16-year-old T.F.-G. witnessed first one and then another of his companions be restrained, searched, and made to sit on the curb as the officers worked their way through the group. T.F.-G. ran. Chased, tackled, and punched, he was arrested for resisting or delaying a peace officer (Pen. Code 148(a)). In a search incident to that arrest, the police found a loaded handgun in his pocket, which T.F.-G. was not licensed to carry.The court of appeal affirmed his convictions. The totality of the circumstances, establishing the existence of probable cause for his arrest for resisting or delaying a peace officer—the asserted basis for the eventual search that revealed his possession of a loaded handgun in public–indicated that a reasonable person in T.F.-G.’s position would have understood he was not free to leave. The court also rejected a Second Amendment facial challenge to the prohibition on the unlicensed public carrying of loaded firearms. Although California’s “good cause” licensing requirement is undisputedly unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s 2022 “Bruen” decision, the unconstitutionality of a discrete licensing requirement does not render section 25850 facially unconstitutional. View "In re T.F.-G." on Justia Law
In re A.B.
In 2009, A.B., 13 years old, pled no contest to charges and was declared a ward of the juvenile court. The juvenile court successfully terminated his probation and wardship in 2014. Eight years later, A.B. and the County Probation Department filed an unopposed petition to have his juvenile court and public agency records sealed, Welfare and Institutions Code section 781. Since his juvenile adjudication, A.B. had not sustained any criminal convictions, had married and had a child, and had remained steadily employed.The court granted the petition, finding that A.B. had been rehabilitated and that A.B.’s offenses were not listed in section 707(b). In addition to sealing its own records, the court ordered the five government agencies listed in the petition to seal and ultimately destroy any of A.B.’s juvenile records in their custody. Three months later, A.B. discovered that several public agencies not subject to the original sealing order had retained and could access his juvenile records. A.B. petitioned to seal these additional records, again unopposed. The juvenile court concluded that it lacked the authority to seal additional records after the initial sealing order, acknowledging that, had the additional agencies been listed in A.B.’s first petition, they would have been ordered to seal their records. The court of appeal reversed. Section 781.1 allows a court to grant a petition to seal documents not addressed in an earlier petition. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law
In re J.P.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney filed a petition against defendant-appellant J.P. alleging he committed second degree robbery, assault with a firearm and carrying a loaded firearm not registered to him in a vehicle. A court found all three allegations true and sustained the petition. On appeal, J.P. argued Welfare and Institutions Code section 875 precluded commitment to a secure youth treatment facility (SYTF) unless the juvenile’s most recent offense was listed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b), and J.P.’s most recent offense, the gun possession, was not such an offense. The State moved to dismiss the gun possession offense, to which J.P. objected, arguing that the court only had the power to strike the entre petition, not any single allegation. The court granted the State’s motion, dismissed the gun offense, and committed J.P. to an SYTF. Finding no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re J.P." on Justia Law
Vilches v. Leao
Vilches, the father and guardian of Doe (age 7), took her to Leao for treatment. Vilches later sued Leao to compel the release of Doe’s therapy records. Under Health and Safety Code 123110, the personal representative of a minor is entitled to access the minor’s patient records unless “[t]he health care provider determines that access to the patient records ... would have a detrimental effect on the provider’s professional relationship with the minor patient or the minor's physical safety or psychological well-being. The decision of the health care provider ... shall not attach any liability to the provider unless the decision is found to be in bad faith. Leao indicated she had determined that it would have a detrimental impact on Doe’s ability to trust in general, and would negatively impact the patient-counselor relationship. She was also concerned that Vilches would use the records to coach his daughter's responses in a court evaluation in an upcoming custody proceeding.The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of Leao, rejecting an argument that the absence of bad faith does not immunize a therapist’s determination from judicial review and that section 123110 creates a presumption of entitlement to disclosure. The statute does not require separate determinations for each type of patient record. When the provider makes the detriment determination, a plaintiff must show bad faith to compel disclosure. View "Vilches v. Leao" on Justia Law