Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the oral disposition and accompanying order issued by the Youth Court, which committed V.K.B. to the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) for placement at the Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility following his adjudication as a delinquent youth, holding that the district court exceeded its statutory authority and abused its discretion.V.K.B. was fifteen year old when he accidentally shot and killed another boy. The State filed a delinquent youth petitions alleging that V.K.B. was a delinquent youth. The Youth Court adjudicated V.K.B. a delinquent youth and ordered him to be placed at Pine Hills. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court exceeded it statutory authority and abused it discretion by committing V.K.B. to the DOC for placement at Pine Hills without making the required findings under Mont. Code Ann. 41-5-1513(1)(e) that V.K.B. was a serious juvenile offender and that such a commitment was necessary for the protection of the public. View "In re V.K.B." on Justia Law

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When the Indiana Department of Child Services identifies a situation that involves the apparent neglect or abuse of a child, it files a “CHINS” (Children in Need of Services) petition that may request the child’s placement with foster parents. The litigation ends only when the court determines that the child’s parents can resume unsupervised custody, the child is adopted, or the child turns 18. Minors who are or were subject to CHINS proceedings sought an injunction covering how the Department investigates child welfare before CHINS proceedings, when it may or must initiate CHINS proceedings, and what relief the Department may or must pursue. The district court denied a request to abstain and declined to dismiss the suit.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Only two plaintiffs still have live claims; all of their claims may be resolved in CHINS proceedings, so “Younger” abstention applies. Short of ordering the state to produce more money, "it is hard to see what options are open to a federal court but closed to a CHINS court." It is improper for a federal court to issue an injunction requiring a state official to comply with existing state law. Questions that lie outside the scope of CHINS proceedings, such as how the Department handles investigations before filing a CHINS petition, do not affect the status of the remaining plaintiffs. Any contentions that rest on state law also are outside the province of the federal court. View "Ashley W. v. Holcomb" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this action are minors who resided in San Diego County. Plaintiffs sued the County and County social workers for allegedly violating their Fourth Amendment rights by interviewing them without a court order or parental consent during the course of a child-abuse investigation. During that investigation, the County created and maintained files related to the alleged child abuse. Attorneys defending the County reviewed the child-abuse investigation file without first obtaining a court order. Plaintiffs then brought an action, alleging that the attorneys who accessed the file violated their right to privacy.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the action. The court held that, contrary to Plaintiffs’ argument, Gonzalez v. Spencer, 336 F.3d 832 (9th Cir. 2003) (per curiam), abrogated on other grounds by Filarsky v. Delia, 566 U.S. 377 (2012) does not stand for the proposition that a right to privacy necessarily attaches to the type of records at issue here. Further, even if Plaintiffs were entitled to informational privacy, the balancing test recognized in Seaton v. Mayberg, 610 F.3d 530 (9th Cir. 2010), showed the County’s interest in defending this litigation outweighed Plaintiffs’ asserted privacy interest. Even assuming that the social workers’ records comprised sensitive medical and psychological records, there was no constitutional violation because the County’s need to access the records was high. Plaintiffs initiated that need, and the professional obligations that lawyers owe their clients minimized the risk of misuse, harassment, or embarrassment. Thus, the district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs’ Monell claim. View "A.C. V. ERICA CORTEZ" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the general division of a common pleas court does not have jurisdiction over an offender who was arrested at the age of twenty for felonious acts he allegedly committed as a juvenile.Appellant was arrested at the age of twenty for acts he allegedly committed when he was seventeen years old, acts that would have been felonious had they been committed by an adult. Appellant was first indicted in the general division of the court of common pleas. The State recognized that the general division did not have jurisdiction over Appellant under Ohio Rev. Code 2152.02(C)(3) and 2151.23(I) and moved to dismiss the indictment. The indictment was dismissed, but because Appellant was twenty-two years old at that point, the State reindicted him in the general division the next day. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the jurisdiction of the general division of the court of common pleas is not invoked when a person is arrested at the age of twenty for felonious acts that he allegedly committed as a juvenile. View "State v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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The issue presented by this appeal was whether youthful offenders who are statutorily ineligible for early parole consideration were nevertheless entitled to a "Franklin" proceeding to preserve evidence for their eventual parole hearing. During his early 20’s, appellant was involved in three separate criminal incidents. s a result of those incidents, appellant was convicted of kidnapping for robbery and multiple counts of robbery, burglary, false imprisonment and illegal gun possession. He was also found to have personally used a firearm during the offenses and suffered a prior strike conviction. The trial court sentenced him to 59 years to life in prison under the “Three Strikes” law. In 2020, appellant requested a Franklin proceeding to present mitigation evidence in anticipation of his youth offender parole hearing (YOPH). However, the trial court correctly determined appellant was not eligible for a YOPH because he was sentenced under the Three Strikes law. Therefore, it denied his request for a Franklin proceeding. Appellant admitted he was statutorily ineligible for a YOPH because he was sentenced under the Three Strikes law. However, he contended he is entitled to a YOPH – and a concomitant Franklin proceeding – as a matter of equal protection. Although the Court of Appeal rejected appellant’s equal protection argument, both parties concluded he was entitled to a Franklin proceeding under the standard rules applicable to all parole hearings. The trial court's judgment was reversed and the case remanded for such a proceeding. View "California v. Delgado" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Birdsall (age 16) and Nicosia murdered Latiolais in her home and stole a car, guns, jewelry, and marijuana. Birdsall had a distant family relationship with the victim and had done work at her home. Birdsall and Nicosia hid outside the house for several hours; when Latiolais did not leave, they decided to kill her and proceed with the burglary. They later returned and set the house on fire. Police arrested and interrogated Birdsall, who made inculpatory statements. Video recordings of the interrogation were played for the jury at Birdsall’s trial. Birdsall presented a mental state defense but was convicted of first-degree murder and arson. The jury found true the alleged special circumstances. The court sentenced Birdsall to life without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, plus a consecutive five-year term for arson.After the retroactive application of Proposition 57, which requires that a transfer hearing be held in juvenile court before the initiation of adult criminal court proceedings against a minor, the case was remanded to juvenile court, which conducted a transfer hearing and found Birdsall not suitable for juvenile court adjudication and reinstated the original judgment. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Birdsall’s argument that the court erred by failing to suppress his inculpatory statements, which he claims were obtained in violation of Miranda and were involuntary, and challenges to his sentence and to one of the jury instructions. View "Peope v. Birdsall" on Justia Law

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Mother appealed the juvenile court’s jurisdiction and disposition orders pertaining to her children, citing the court’s findings that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA; 25 U.S.C. 1901) did not apply to the dependency proceedings. She argued that evidence of her children’s Native American ancestry triggered the duty under state law (Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2(e)) to further investigate whether her children come within the federal Act.The court of appeal vacated and remanded. The Department of Family and Children’s Services failed to comply with the statutory duty to further investigate whether the children are Indian children; the juvenile court’s negative ICWA findings were based on insufficient evidence. The social worker’s initial inquiry established a reason to believe the children are Indian children; both the mother and the maternal grandfather stated that “a maternal great grandfather may have Native American ancestry in Minnesota.” The court rejected an argument that further inquiry would be futile, and specifically that contacting the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the State Department of Social Services would be an idle act. View "In re I.F." on Justia Law

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By passing Proposition 83 (Jessica's Law), voters intended to continue to classify the crime of possession of child pornography as a "wobbler" so that juvenile courts could continue to declare it as either a felony or a misdemeanor.In this case, H.N., a minor, appeals an order of the juvenile court sustaining a Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition with a finding that he possessed child pornography. The Court of Appeal concluded that the juvenile court erred by not making an express finding per Welfare and Institutions Code section 702 whether the Penal Code section 311.11, subdivision (a) offense was a felony or a misdemeanor. The court struck the maximum turn of confinement finding H.N. was placed on home probation and remanded to the juvenile court to make a finding whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor. The court otherwise affirmed. View "In re H.N." on Justia Law

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K.F.C., age 11, signed up for a Snapchat account. Snapchat's terms specify that a person must be at least 13 to have an account. K.F.C. lied about her age. Before she turned 18, K.F.C. sued, alleging that Snapchat’s features amount to facial recognition, which violates the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act, K.F.C. acknowledges that she accepted Snapchat’s terms but denies that its arbitration clause binds her although she continued using Snapchat after turning 13.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. An arbitrator, not a court, must decide whether K.F.C.’s youth is a defense to the contract’s enforcement. While even the most sweeping delegation cannot send the contract-formation issue to the arbitrator, state law does not provide that agreements between adults and children are void but treats such agreements as voidable (capable of ratification), so the age of the contracting parties is a potential defense to enforcement. The Federal Arbitration Act provides that arbitration is enforceable to the extent any promise is enforceable as a matter of state law, 9 U.S.C. 2. A challenge to the validity (as opposed to the existence) of a contract goes to the arbitrator; K.F.C.’s arguments about her youth and public policy concern the contract’s validity, not its existence. View "K.F.C. v. Snap Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a motion to dismiss a Second Superseding Indictment (SSI) charging defendant with racketeering conspiracy. After determining that it had jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine to hear this interlocutory appeal, the panel held that the Juvenile Delinquency Act (JDA) does not preclude the government from prosecuting a person as an adult for a continuing conspiracy that includes both pre- and post-majority conduct after the court dismisses a JDA information charging that person with conspiracy based solely on pre-majority conduct.In this case, because defendant's participation in the conspiracy allegedly continued beyond his eighteenth birthday, it was no longer an act of juvenile delinquency under the JDA. Rather, the panel concluded that the conduct became a continuing adult RICO conspiracy offense which began when he was a juvenile but continued when he allegedly engaged in additional acts in furtherance of the ongoing conspiracy after reaching the age of majority. View "United States v. Mendez" on Justia Law