Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that under the plain language of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 68 a juvenile defendant who is charged with murder and a properly-joined nonmurder offense must be committed to the custody of the sheriff if the defendant is not released on bail.Defendant, who was sixteen years old at the time of the offense, was charged with murder in the first degree and armed assault with intent to rob. At issue was whether the superior court judge had discretion to craft a bail order releasing Defendant on personal recognizance on the murder charge and ordering him to be held without bail on the related nonmurder charge such that he may continue to be held by the Department of Youth Services after his eighteenth birthday. The superior court judge concluded that he lacked the discretion to craft such a bail order and committed Defendant to the custody of the sheriff under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 68. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that that plain language of the statute required that the superior court judge commit Defendant to the custody of the sheriff. View "Nicholas-Taylor v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The boys were removed from the custody of their (married) parents by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services in 2020, after a string of child abuse and neglect referrals stemming from repeated bouts of domestic violence between the couple, concerns over parental substance abuse and, in mother’s case, mental health concerns. The boys, then 19 months and 6 months old, were placed into foster care together, later joined by a sister who was detained in a separate case after mother tested positive for drugs at her birth. The juvenile court sustained allegations that the boys were at substantial risk of serious physical and emotional harm.Mother appealed a subsequent termination of her parental rights, arguing that the juvenile court erred in its consideration of the beneficial relationship exception (Welf. & Inst. Code 366.26(c)(1)(B)(i)), under “Caden C.,” a 2021 decision. The court of appeal affirmed the orders terminating parental rights, without reaching the merits. The record does not contain evidence that would support the application of the beneficial relationship exception. When a juvenile court applies the wrong legal standard in rejecting the beneficial relationship exception, reversal is not warranted if the parent did not introduce evidence that would permit a finding in their favor under the correct legal standard. View "In re J.R." on Justia Law

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In May 2021 the Agency received a report of general neglect of an infant. A social worker met with Mother and her partner, Anthony; both reported that there was no known Native American ancestry. The dependency petition stated that a social worker had completed an Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. 1901, ICWA) inquiry. At a hearing, Mother’s counsel reported no known heritage. Based on Anthony’s response, the court ordered further inquiry (Welf. & Inst. Code 224.2(e)). A social worker received a voicemail from Anthony, who apparently accidentally left his phone on, and discussed with Mother a plan to claim that the minor had Indian ancestry to delay the child's removal. In August, Mother stated she was not sure whether she had Native American ancestry. A maternal great-grandmother reported that the minor’s great-great-great-great grandparents “told her she has Blackfoot Cherokee,” but she had no documentation regarding the possible affiliation.The Agency recommended that the juvenile court find that there was “no reason to believe or reason to know” that the minor was an Indian child. The minor was placed with a maternal relative. At a September 2021 disposition hearing, the court found, without prejudice to future research, that ICWA did not apply. The court of appeal affirmed. Although the Agency erred by not interviewing additional family members, reversal of the early dependency order was not warranted simply because the Agency’s ongoing obligations had not yet been satisfied. View "In re S.H." on Justia Law

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In August 2019, the State of New Hampshire filed three juvenile delinquency petitions against Respondent in the family division, charging him with one count of pattern aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA), one count of felonious sexual assault, and one count of indecent exposure. The AFSA petition alleged that the acts comprising the pattern offense occurred on four specific dates: June 22, 2018; August 24, 2018; September 15, 2018; and May 27, 2019. When the petitions were filed, the alleged victim was six years old and Respondent was seventeen years old. Respondent turned eighteen in November 2019 and at the time of this appeal was twenty years old. After filing the petitions, the State, pursuant to RSA 169-B:24, petitioned to certify Respondent as an adult and transfer the case to superior court. This petition was denied and the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted the State’s Rule 11 petition to determine whether the superior court erred in denying the State’s petition to certify Respondent as an adult. Finding the superior court so erred, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Petition of State of New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Antoine Davis was 21 when he was convicted of first degree murder and second degree attempted murder. He received a standard range sentence of 767 months. Davis filed this personal restraint petition (PRP) more than one year after his judgment and sentence finalized, contending it was. timely for two reasons: (1) In re Personal Restraint of Monschke, 482 P.3d 276 (2021) constituted a significant, material, and retroactive change in law that applied to his de facto life sentence; and (2) recent advances in neuroscience for late-aged adolescents qualified as newly discovered evidence. The Washington Supreme Court found: (1) Monschke applied to 19- and 20-year-old defendants; and (2) Davis did not satisfy any of the statutory criteria that exempted his petition from the one-year time bar. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Davis" on Justia Law

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Kemo Parks was convicted by jury for first-degree premeditated-murder. Parks was 18 years old when he aided and abetted in the murder. Parks argued that his sentence was cruel and/or unusual punishment under both the United States and Michigan Constitutions. Under current United States Supreme Court precedent, the Michigan Supreme Court concluded Parks’s Eighth Amendment argument failed. However, the Court held his sentence of mandatory life without parole violated the Michigan Constitution’s ban on “cruel or unusual” punishment. Specifically, his sentence lacked proportionality because it failed to take into account the mitigating characteristics of youth, specifically late-adolescent brain development. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming Parks’s sentence, vacated Parks’s life-without-parole sentence, and remanded this case to the Circuit Court for resentencing proceedings. View "Michigan v. Parks" on Justia Law

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After June 30, 2021, juvenile courts were no longer able to commit juveniles to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Jason V. was committed to DJJ prior to June 30, 2021, but the trial court erroneously ordered an impermissible maximum term of confinement. In July 2021, the court entered a nunc pro tunc order stating the correct maximum period. Jason contended the commitment order had to be vacated because judicial error could not be corrected by a nunc pro tunc order and, on the date the order was entered, he could not be committed to DJJ. He also contended he was entitled to additional days of credit for time spent in local confinement that the juvenile court failed to award. The Court of Appeal remanded the case for recalculation of the credits Jason was entitled to, but otherwise affirmed the dispositional order. View "In re Jason V." on Justia Law

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When Petitioner Andrew Kennedy was 19 years old, he killed his cousin’s 11-month-old daughter while she was in his care. Following a bench trial in 2007, the court convicted Kennedy of homicide by abuse and sentenced him to 380 months in confinement. Kennedy’s judgment and sentence became final after direct appeal in 2009. In 2019, he filed this personal restraint petition (PRP) seeking to be resentenced based on “[n]ewly discovered evidence.” Kennedy argued that advancements in the scientific understanding of adolescent brain development for young adults since his 2007 sentencing would have probably changed the trial court’s discretionary sentencing decision by allowing him to argue for a mitigated sentence based on youthfulness. The Court of Appeals dismissed Kennedy’s PRP as time barred, concluding that scientific evidence supporting such an argument for young adults Kennedy’s age was available at the time of sentencing. After the Washington Supreme Court granted Kennedy’s motion for discretionary review, he raised a second argument for relief based on the “significant change in the law” exemption to the time bar. The Supreme Court found Kennedy's PRP meet neither exemption to the time bar. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Kennedy" on Justia Law

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Minor N.L. appealed an order adjudging her a ward of the court. She argued: (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court’s finding that she willfully and maliciously committed felony arson of property; and (2) the case should have been remanded for the juvenile court to consider informal supervision under Welfare and Institutions Code section 654.2, applying changes to the law that became effective on January 1, 2022 as a result of Senate Bill No. 383 (2021-2022 Reg. Sess.). After review, the Court of Appeal found sufficient evidence to support the true finding, but the Court agreed that N.L. was entitled to a conditional reversal and remand for the trial court to consider informal supervision under the law as amended by Senate Bill No. 383. View "In re N.L." on Justia Law

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The occupants of a car shot at officers; neither was hit. Ernesto, age 16, and others were apprehended after attempting to escape. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office filed a wardship petition with respect to Ernesto. A juvenile court committed him to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Generally, if a minor is removed from a parent’s physical custody after being adjudged a ward of the court, the dispositional order must “specify that the minor may not be held in physical confinement for a period in excess of the middle term of imprisonment” that could be imposed on an adult convicted of the same offense. If a minor is committed to DJJ, the juvenile court may set an even lower maximum term of physical confinement. The juvenile court applied Ernesto’s precommitment credits (over two years), against the maximum exposure term of 176 months, not the maximum custodial term of three years.The court of appeal modified the judgment. When a minor is committed to DJJ, a juvenile court must apply precommitment credits against the maximum custodial term. Because the juvenile court would have set a higher maximum custodial term had it realized Ernesto’s credits would apply against that term, the court remanded. The juvenile court did not err by committing him to DJJ under section 602.3 and by relying on prior misdemeanors when calculating the maximum exposure term. View "In re Ernesto L." on Justia Law