Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the habeas court rendering judgment against Petitioner, a juvenile offender, on his claim that the evolution of Connecticut's "standards of decency" regarding acceptable punishments for children who engage in criminal conduct has rendered the transfer of his case to the regular criminal docket and resultant sentencing unconstitutional, holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his claims. Petitioner, who was fourteen years old when he committed felony murder, argued that his sentence as an adult after his case was automatically transferred to the regular criminal docket violated the state prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The habeas court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) transferring the case of a fourteen year old defendant to the regular criminal docket comports with evolving standards of decency and, therefore, does not violate the Connecticut constitution; and (2) Petitioner's forty year sentence does not violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment after the provisions of P.A. 15-84 made Petitioner eligible for parole after serving sixty percent of his original sentence. View "Griffin v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's dismissal of Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that because Defendant is now eligible for parole under No. 15-84 of the 2015 Public Acts (P.A. 15-84) the Connecticut constitution did not require a resentencing of his unconstitutional sentence. Defendant, a juvenile offender, was convicted of murder and sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment. At the time of sentence, Defendant was indelible for parole. Thereafter, decisions by the United States and Connecticut Supreme Courts and enactments by the legislature resulted in changes to the sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders. To comply with federal constitutional requirements the legislature passed P.A. 15-84. As a result, Defendant will be parole eligible after serving twenty-one years. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, asserting a violation of Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). The trial court dismissed the motion for lack of jurisdiction. The Appellate Court ultimately affirmed on the ground decided in State v. Delgado, 151 A.3d 345 (Conn. 2016). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, consistent with Delgado and the federal constitution, Defendant's parole eligibility afforded by P.A. 15-84, 1 was an adequate remedy for the Miller violation. View "State v. Williams-Bey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to correct an illegal sentence, holding that the legislature may and has remedied the constitutional violation in this case with parole eligibility. Defendant, a juvenile offender, was convicted of murder and other offenses. Defendant was originally sentenced to imprisonment for the functional equivalent of his lifetime without the possibility of parole. Subsequently, decisions by the United States and Connecticut Supreme Courts and enactments by the legislature resulted in changes to the sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders. As a result, Defendant will be parole eligible when he is about fifty years old. Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence based on Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012). The trial court ultimately dismissed the motion, concluding that Defendant's claim was moot in light of the United States Supreme Court's holding that Miller applied retroactively. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) parole eligibility afforded by No. 15-84 of the 2015 Public Acts (P.A. 15-84) is an adequate remedy for a Miller violation under the Connecticut constitution; and (2) P.A. 15-84, 1 does not violate the separation of powers doctrine or Defendant's right to equal protection under the federal constitution. View "State v. McCleese" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged by criminal information with sexual assault in the first degree and risk of injury to a child. Based on the seriousness of the offenses and the allegation that Defendant’s conduct occurred when he was fourteen years old, the case was automatically transferred from the juvenile docket to the regular criminal docket. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of sexual assault int he first degree and one count of risk of injury to a child. The Appellate Court vacated the convictions, concluding that the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s post trial motion to dismiss the information because the State had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the conduct underlying the convictions had occurred after Defendant’s fourteenth birthday. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State did not establish, under any burden of proof, that Defendant was at least fourteen years old at the time he committed the offenses for which he was convicted. View "State v. Samuel M." on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of murder. Defendant committed the crime when he was seventeen years old. In 1992, Defendant was sentenced to fifty years’ imprisonment without parole. In 2013, Defendant filed a motion to correct his allegedly illegal sentence, arguing that he was entitled to resentencing on the basis of recent changes to juvenile sentencing law. The trial court dismissed the motion for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that court precedent does not require a trial court to consider any particular mitigating factors associated with a juvenile’s age before imposing a sentence that includes an opportunity for parole, and therefore, Defendant has not raised a colorable claim of invalidity that would require resentencing. View "State v. Boyd" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the legislature amended the juvenile transfer statute to increase the age of a child whose case was subject to an automatic transfer to the regular criminal docket by one year, to fifteen years old. Automatic transfer is required in cases involving children who have been charged with the commission of a class A or class B felony. At issue in this case was whether that amendment applied retroactively so that the case of a child, such as Defendant, who had been charged with committing a class A or class B felony prior to the amendment for crimes he committed when he was fourteen years old, and whose case had already been transferred to the regular criminal docket, should have his case transferred back to the juvenile docket. The trial court reserved this question of law for the advice of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the request and answered the question in the affirmative, concluding that the legislature intended that the amendment apply retroactively. View "State v. Nathaniel S." on Justia Law

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Pursuant to plea agreements in five different cases, the trial court rendered judgments adjudicating five juveniles (Respondents) delinquent for various offenses and ordered that they be committed to the department of children and families (department) for periods of less than eighteen months. At issue in this consolidated appeal was whether Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-141(a)(1)(A) permitted the superior court judge to order the commitment of Respondents to the custody of the department for a period of time less than eighteen months. The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the trial court in all five cases, holding (1) section 46b-141(a)(1)(A) requires a judge to commit the delinquent child to an indeterminate commitment of eighteen months subject to any subsequent modification as provided by statute; and (2) the trial court in these cases improperly sentenced Respondents to commitment for an indeterminate time up to a maximum period of less than eighteen months. Remanded. View "In re Jusstice W." on Justia Law

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Juvenile entered a plea of guilty to robbery in the second degree. The superior court found Juvenile to be delinquent and ordered him to be committed to the custody of the department of children and families (department) in an out-of-state facility. The department subsequently filed a motion to intervene in the matter, arguing that the court's orders exceeded the court's placement authority pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-140. The court denied the motion to intervene. The appellate court reversed the trial court's order, concluding that section 46b-140 does not give the superior court the authority to place a juvenile in an out-of-state facility. While this appeal to the Supreme Court was pending, the trial court modified Juvenile's probation to permit him to return to Connecticut from his placement out-of-state. The Supreme Court dismissed Juvenile's appeal as moot and not capable of repetition, yet evading review, as the legislature's most recent amendment to section 46b-140 firmly establishes that the statute does not authorize the superior court to order the direct placement of a child committed to the department in an out-of-state residential facility. View "In re Jeffrey M." on Justia Law

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Defendant, then age sixteen, was arrested and charged with ten offenses and arraigned as a youthful offender under General Statutes 54-76c et seq. Following the arraignment, the state filed a motion to transfer defendant's case to the regular criminal docket. At issue was whether the Appellate Court, sua sponte, properly dismissed for lack of a final judgment the interlocutory appeal of defendant from an order of the trial court transferring his case from the youthful offender docket of the Superior Court to the regular criminal docket of the Superior Court pursuant to sections 54-76c(b)(1). The court held that the trial court's order was not an appealable order under State v. Curcio where it did not conclude the rights of defendant regarding his status as a youth offender. Accordingly, the Appellate Court properly dismissed defendant's appeal for lack of a final judgment.

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Defendant appealed from the decision of the trial court granting the state's motion to transfer defendant's case from the youthful offender docket to the regular criminal docket pursuant to General Statutes 54-57c(b)(1). At issue was whether the trial court improperly granted the state's motion to transfer without first holding a hearing on the motion in violation of defendant's right to due process under the federal constitution. The court held that section 54-76c(b) required a hearing on the adult docket prior to the finalization of the transfer of a case from the youthful offender docket to the regular criminal docket, that this statutory requirement satisfied due process, and that neither section 54-76c(b)(1) nor due process entitled defendant to a hearing before the court on the youthful offender docket.