Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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The case involves two petitioners, Daniel Dilly, Superintendent of the Rubenstein Juvenile Center (RJC), and Nancy Oldaker, Health Services Administrator at RJC, who were held in contempt of court by Judge Kurt Hall of the Circuit Court of Lewis County, West Virginia. The contempt charges arose from an incident involving a resident of RJC, identified as D.P., who suffered a broken jaw during a fight with other residents. The court had ordered that D.P. be taken off RJC grounds for an X-ray and that his mother be notified of his medical appointments. The court found that these orders were not adequately followed by the petitioners.The Circuit Court of Lewis County held a hearing to review D.P.'s placement and medical care, resulting in a "Medical Care Order" that directed RJC to schedule an appointment for D.P. with his oral surgeon and to allow D.P.'s mother to attend the appointment. The court also ordered RJC to provide a report concerning the incident that led to D.P.'s injury. When these orders were not fully complied with, the court held a "show cause" hearing and found both Superintendent Dilly and Ms. Oldaker in contempt of court, fining each of them $250.The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia found that procedural errors in the lower court's contempt proceedings deprived the court of jurisdiction to impose such sanctions. The court noted that the lower court failed to provide the petitioners with adequate notice that they were facing indirect criminal contempt proceedings and did not afford them jury trials before imposing the fines. The court concluded that the contempt orders were void and granted the petitioners' requested writs of prohibition, thereby preventing the lower court from enforcing the contempt orders. View "State ex rel. Dilly v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The case involves a professional photographer who sexually exploited a minor. The defendant initially contacted the victim through a social networking site and began communicating with her through various means, eventually soliciting and receiving explicit images of the victim. The defendant also met the victim in person and sexually abused her. After the victim's parents reported the exploitation to the police, an investigation was launched. The police seized a computer tower, an external hard drive, and other items from the defendant's former residence. A forensic examination of the hard drives revealed explicit images of the victim, communications between the defendant and the victim, and hundreds of images of unidentified females in various stages of undress.The defendant was indicted on multiple counts, including aggravated rape of a child and enticement of a minor. He pleaded guilty to all charges, except for the eight counts of aggravated rape of a child, where he pleaded guilty to the lesser included offense of statutory rape. After being sentenced, the defendant filed a motion for the return of the seized property. The Commonwealth opposed the return of the property, arguing that it was in the "public interest" to destroy the devices. The Superior Court denied the defendant's request for the return of certain property.The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts granted an application for direct appellate review. The court concluded that the procedural requirements set forth in G. L. c. 276, §§ 4 to 8, must be followed before a forfeiture decree may be issued under G. L. c. 276, § 3. The court vacated the Superior Court orders denying the return of certain property to the defendant and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Commonwealth v. James" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) in Rhode Island, which was held in contempt by the Family Court for failing to place a minor, N.B., in a specific facility, St. Mary’s Home for Children, as ordered by the court. N.B., who has behavioral issues and Type I juvenile diabetes, was initially placed in Hasbro Children’s Hospital after her mother refused to take her home due to safety concerns. The Family Court ordered DCYF to place N.B. at St. Mary’s, but the facility refused to admit her due to her medical needs and behavioral issues. Despite DCYF's efforts to secure a placement for N.B., including contacting multiple potential placements and attempting to hire nurses to monitor N.B.'s diabetic care needs, no suitable placement was available.The Family Court found DCYF in contempt for failing to place N.B. at St. Mary’s, rejecting DCYF's argument that it was impossible to comply with the placement order. The court ordered DCYF to pay a daily sanction until it complied with the order. DCYF appealed the contempt order, arguing that the Family Court abused its discretion by finding that DCYF had not exercised reasonable efforts to place N.B. and that it was impossible to comply with the placement order.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island vacated the Family Court’s contempt order. The Supreme Court found that DCYF had made substantial efforts to place N.B. at St. Mary’s and other appropriate facilities, but compliance with the placement order was outside the department’s control due to circumstances such as the refusal of facilities to accept N.B. and ongoing nursing shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court concluded that the Family Court had abused its discretion in finding that DCYF had not used reasonable efforts to place N.B. and in holding DCYF in contempt. View "In re N.B." on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of absolute and qualified immunity to two County of San Bernardino social workers, Gloria Vazquez and Mirta Johnson. The plaintiffs, Sydney Rieman and her minor child K.B., alleged that the social workers violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to provide them notice of a juvenile detention hearing and by providing false information to the Juvenile Court about why Ms. Rieman was not noticed for the hearing.The court held that the social workers were not entitled to absolute immunity for their actions and omissions, such as providing false information to the Juvenile Court and failing to give notice of the detention hearing. These actions were not similar to discretionary decisions about whether to prosecute. Absolute immunity did not apply to the plaintiffs' claim that the defendants failed to give them notice of the detention hearing as such notice was mandatory.The court also held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity from suit for failing to provide notice of the hearing. Ms. Rieman had a due process right to such notice and that right was clearly established. The court stated that it was clear at the time that parents could not be summarily deprived of the care and custody of their children without notice and a hearing, except when the children were in imminent danger.Finally, the court held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity for their misrepresentation to the Juvenile Court about why Ms. Rieman was not noticed for the hearing. The court concluded that a reasonable social worker in the defendants' shoes would have understood, based on prior decisional law, that providing incomplete and false information to the Juvenile Court about Ms. Rieman’s whereabouts to convince the court that the social workers had satisfied the due process notice requirement constituted judicial deception. View "RIEMAN V. VASQUEZ" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts was called upon to determine which law applied to the sealing of records from youthful offender proceedings - G. L. c. 276, § 100A, the adult criminal record sealing statute or G. L. c. 276, § 100B, the juvenile delinquency sealing statute. The case arose when the Commissioner of Probation denied the petitioner's request to have his youthful offender records sealed under § 100B and instead applied the adult criminal record sealing statute, § 100A.The court, after examining both statutes and considering the legislative intent, concluded that § 100B, the juvenile delinquency sealing statute, was the proper statute for the sealing of records of youthful offenders. The court found that the Legislature’s intent to aid, encourage, and guide juveniles, which includes youthful offenders, was more consistent with the process outlined in § 100B.The court held that it was an error for the Commissioner of Probation to refuse to seal the petitioner's Juvenile Court records under § 100B, as the petitioner had satisfied all the requirements under the statute. Therefore, the case was remanded back to the county court for the entry of a judgment in favor of the petitioner. View "In the Matter of an Impounded Case" on Justia Law

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In the juvenile dependency case involving P.H., Jr., the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Five affirmed the jurisdiction and disposition orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. This case revolved around the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and whether the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (the Department) and the juvenile court were obligated to formally notify certain tribes of the proceedings.The minor, P.H., Jr., lived with his parents, P.H. (Father) and A.R. (Mother), when the Department filed a juvenile dependency petition alleging that the minor was at substantial risk due to physical abuse by the mother, the father's failure to protect the minor, and unsanitary living conditions. The parents filed ICWA-020 Parental Notification of Indian Status forms indicating possible affiliation with federally recognized Indian tribes.The appellate court held that no formal ICWA notice was required in this case because none of the statements by the minor’s parents or other family members provided a reason to know he was an Indian child for purposes of the relevant statutes. The ICWA and related California law define an "Indian child" as a child who is either a member of an Indian tribe or is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe. The court found that at most, the statements by the parents and other family members suggested that the minor might have some Indian ancestry, but tribal ancestry alone is not sufficient to trigger the formal notice requirement. The court affirmed the lower court's jurisdiction and disposition orders. View "In re P.H." on Justia Law

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In an appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Kern County, five minors, aged between one and fourteen years, challenged the juvenile court's decision to order reunification services for their parents, identified as A.B. (mother) and A.S. (father). The minors were adjudged dependent children due to ongoing domestic violence and substance abuse in their home. The court had to interpret and apply the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5, subdivision (b)(13), which allows a court to bypass reunification services for parents with a history of extensive, abusive, and chronic use of drugs or alcohol who have resisted prior court-ordered treatment in the three years prior to the filing of the petition.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fifth Appellate District concluded that the juvenile court had misapplied the law when it decided it could not deny reunification services to the parents while they were participating in treatment. The court emphasized that the statute requires proof of the parent’s resistance during the three years preceding the petition, regardless of their engagement in treatment at the time of the disposition hearing.The court reversed the juvenile court's dispositional order providing reunification services to the parents for all five children and remanded the case for a new disposition hearing based on the family's present circumstances. This decision was made despite subsequent events that rendered the case potentially moot, as the court deemed the issue of statutory interpretation important. View "In re L.B." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants, nineteen children in New York City’s foster care system, filed suit alleging “systemic deficiencies” in the administration of the City’s foster care system in violation of federal and state law. The named Plaintiffs moved to represent a class of all children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of the Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and two subclasses. As remedies, they sought injunctive and declaratory relief to redress alleged class-wide injuries caused by deficiencies in the City’s administration—and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ oversight—of foster care. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis of the commonality and typicality requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a).   The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded. The court held that the district court erred in its analysis of commonality and typicality under Rule 23. The court explained that the district court did not determine whether commonality and typicality exist with respect to each of Plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, it concluded that commonality was lacking as to all alleged harms because “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not flow from unitary, non-discretionary policies.” The court held that this approach was legal error requiring remand. Further, the court wrote that here, the district court largely relied upon its commonality analysis to support its finding that typicality was not satisfied. Thus, the deficiencies identified in its commonality inquiry can also be found in its handling of typicality. View "Elisa W. v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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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

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A.D. appealed on behalf of her son G.R.D., a court order placing him in the custody of the Division of Juvenile Services (DJS). In September 2022, G.R.D. was charged with committing simple assault on his mother. He was detained at the Grand Forks County Juvenile Detention Center and subsequently adjudicated as a delinquent child. He remained in his mother’s custody and was placed on supervised probation for 12 months and ordered to participate in drug court. In November 2022, G.R.D. was detained based on allegations he violated conditions of probation and committed new offenses. The juvenile court ordered that G.R.D. remain at the juvenile detention center and undergo diagnostic testing. On November 23, 2022, the juvenile court conducted an initial appearance on the probation revocation petition and ordered G.R.D to home detention in the custody of his mother. G.R.D. was alleged to have used methamphetamine within hours of being released into his mother’s custody. On November 28, 2022, the juvenile court conducted a detention hearing and ordered that G.R.D. be detained for again violating his probation. After a detention review hearing on December 27, 2022, the juvenile court found G.R.D. remained a delinquent child and ordered him into the custody of DJS for up to 12 months. The court also ordered DJS to place G.R.D. in a treatment center as soon as possible. A.D. argued the juvenile court erred by granting the DJS custody of G.R.D. instead of her, and the court’s findings were based on stale evidence. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Interest of G.R.D." on Justia Law