July 31, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Juvenile Court Lacks Jurisdiction When Juvenile Turns 18

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In the Interest of M.C.S. on Thursday, April 10, 2014.

Dependency and Neglect—Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

The Jefferson County Division of Children, Youth, and Families (Division) filed a dependency and neglect petition concerning M.C.S. after it received a report that he was discharged from a teen shelter for possessing a pellet gun. M.C.S., who was only four months away from his 18th birthday, did not want to return home and his father did not want him to return home. Father appeared at the advisement hearing, entered a general denial, and requested a jury trial. Father’s attorney was not available during the ninety-day statutory period prescribed for adjudications, so the court set the case for a jury trial after M.C.S. turned 18.

The Division, joined by M.C.S.’s guardian ad litem, moved for summary judgment. Father responded by denying that he had refused to pick up M.C.S. from the shelter, that he was afraid of M.C.S., or that M.C.S. was beyond his control. He also moved to dismiss because M.C.S. would not be adjudicated before he turned 18 and therefore the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction.

The juvenile court found its jurisdiction terminated when M.C.S. turned 18 without having been adjudicated dependent and neglected, and therefore granted father’s motion to dismiss. The Division appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Colorado Children’s Code confers exclusive original jurisdiction in the juvenile court over proceedings “[c]oncerning any child who is neglected or dependent” and the term “child” means “a person under eighteen years of age.” A juvenile court’s subject matter jurisdiction is based on the allegations of a child being dependent or neglected.

The Division asserted that once subject matter jurisdiction vested in the juvenile court through the filing of the petition, it could not be divested after M.C.S.’s 18th birthday. The Court agreed that the petition vested the juvenile court with subject matter jurisdiction at the time it was filed, but that jurisdiction was limited. It only authorized the court to enter temporary orders preceding the adjudication. Because the court did not adjudicate M.C.S. before his 18th birthday, it lost jurisdiction to do so. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

HB 14-1032: Establishing Procedures for Providing Defense Counsel to Juvenile Offenders

On January 8, 2014, Rep. Daniel Kagan and Sen. Lucia Guzman introduced HB 14-1032 - Concerning the Provision of Defense Counsel to Juvenile Offenders. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Juvenile Defense Attorney Interim Committee

A promise to appear in court served upon a juvenile and the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian shall state, in clear language that is understandable and appropriate to a juvenile:

  • That the juvenile has the right to have counsel;
  • That counsel will be appointed for the juvenile if the juvenile or the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian lacks adequate resources to retain counsel or refuses to retain counsel for the juvenile;
  • That, if the juvenile chooses to retain his or her own counsel, then the juvenile and the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian are advised to choose counsel that is experienced in representing juveniles in the juvenile justice system; and
  • The contact information for the local office of the state public defender (OSPD).

When a juvenile is placed in a detention facility, a temporary holding facility, or a shelter facility designated by the court, the screening team shall promptly so notify the court, the district attorney, and the local office of the OSPD.

A juvenile who is detained shall be represented at the detention hearing by counsel. If the juvenile has not retained his or her own counsel, he or she shall be represented by the OSPD or, in the case of a conflict, by the office of alternate defense counsel (OADC). This representation shall continue unless:

  • The juvenile retains his or her own counsel; or
  • The juvenile is charged with an offense for which the juvenile may waive counsel and the juvenile has made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his or her right to counsel.

The scheduled time for a detention hearing must allow a juvenile’s defense counsel sufficient time to consult with the juvenile before the detention hearing. This consultation may be performed by secure electronic means if the conditions under which the electronic consultation is held allow the consultation to be confidential. The law enforcement agency that arrested the juvenile shall promptly provide to the court and to defense counsel the affidavit supporting probable cause for the arrest and the arrest report, if the arrest report is available, and the screening team shall promptly provide to the court and to defense counsel any screening material prepared pursuant to the juvenile’s arrest.

A detention hearing shall not be combined with a preliminary hearing or a first advisement. Due to the limited scope of a detention hearing, the representation of a juvenile by appointed counsel at a detention hearing does not, by itself, create a conflict in the event that such counsel is subsequently appointed to represent another individual whose case is related to the juvenile’s case.

A summons issued by a court to a juvenile shall:

  • Explain that the court will appoint counsel for the juvenile if the juvenile does not retain his or her own counsel; and
  • State the contact information for the OSPD that serves the jurisdiction of the court.

At a juvenile’s first appearance before the court, after the detention hearing or at the first appearance if the juvenile appears on a summons, the court shall advise the juvenile of his or her constitutional and legal rights, including the right to counsel. The court shall appoint the OSPD or, in the case of a conflict, the OADC for the juvenile unless the juvenile has retained his or her own counsel or the juvenile has made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his or her right to counsel.

Any decision to waive the right to counsel shall be made by the juvenile himself or herself after consulting with his or her defense counsel. The court may accept a waiver of counsel by a juvenile only after finding that:

  • The juvenile is of a sufficient maturity level to make a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel;
  • The juvenile has consulted with counsel and understands the sentencing options that will be available to the court in the event of an adjudication or conviction;
  • The juvenile has not been coerced into making the waiver;
  • The juvenile understands that the court will provide counsel if the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian is unable or unwilling to obtain counsel for the juvenile; and
  • The juvenile understands the possible consequences that may result from an adjudication or conviction of the offense with which the juvenile is charged.

The court shall not accept a juvenile’s waiver of his or her right to counsel in any proceeding relating to a case in which the juvenile is charged with:

  • A sexual offense;
  • A crime of violence;
  • An offense for which the juvenile will receive a mandatory sentence upon his or her conviction of the offense; or
  • An offense for which the juvenile is being charged as a repeat juvenile offender, as an aggravated juvenile offender, or as a mandatory sentence offender.

The court shall not accept a juvenile’s attempt to waive his or her right to counsel if the prosecuting attorney is seeking direct file proceedings or a transfer proceeding or if the juvenile is in the custody of the state department of human services or a county department of social services.

For purposes of applying for court-appointed counsel, the indigence of a juvenile is determined only by considering the juvenile’s assets and income.

The appointment of counsel for a juvenile offender shall continue until the court’s jurisdiction is terminated, the juvenile or the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian retains counsel for the juvenile, or the juvenile makes a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his or her right to counsel.

A court shall not deem a guardian ad litem who is appointed by the court for a child in a delinquency proceeding to be a substitute for defense counsel for the juvenile.

The OSPD, before determining indigency, may provide limited representation to juveniles in detention hearings or adult defendants in custody who cannot post or are not allowed bond.

The OSPD, the OADC, and the judicial branch shall annually report certain data concerning juvenile delinquency proceedings.

The bill is assigned to the Judiciary Committee. The summary above relates to the bill as introduced; the sponsor is seeking input from various stakeholders to develop amendments.

HB 13-1279: Instructing Courts to Seek to Limit Premature Waiver of Counsel by Juveniles

On March 25, 2013, Rep. Jeanne Labuda introduced HB 13-1279 - Concerning Detention Procedures for Juveniles. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill instructs the courts in juvenile cases to seek to limit premature waiver of counsel by a juvenile in detention hearings. The bill also requires juveniles to be free of physical restraints during hearings unless the court makes specific findings of fact to the contrary that allow for physical restraints to maintain order in the courtroom, prevent the juvenile’s escape, or provide for the safety of the courtroom.

The bill was introduced on March 25 and was assigned to the Judiciary Committee; the bill is scheduled for committee review on April 16 at 1:30 p.m.

Since this summary, the bill was amended by the Judiciary Committee and referred to the House Committee of the Whole for consideration on Second Reading.

Colorado Supreme Court: Juvenile Justice System is Separate Statutory Framework from Adult Criminal Justice System and Provisions Are Not Interchangeable

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People in the Interest of W.P. on Monday, February 11, 2013.

Competency to Proceed in the Juvenile Justice System—Availability of Second Competency Evaluation as of Right—Indigent Alleged Juvenile Offender—Rule Discharged.

In this original proceeding, the Supreme Court considered whether an indigent alleged juvenile offender was entitled as of right to a second competency evaluation at state expense. Two days after W.P.’s arrest on allegations of sexual assault on a child, and one day after the juvenile division of the Adams County District Court appointed a public defender to represent him, the court ordered W.P. to undergo a competency evaluation at state expense. After receiving the evaluation report, the court made a preliminary finding that W.P. was competent to proceed in the case. Citing ongoing concerns about her client’s mental health, the public defender objected, requesting a competency hearing pursuant to CRS § 19-2-1302(2) of the Colorado Children’s Code and filing a motion for a second competency evaluation at state expense pursuant to CRS §§ 16-8.5-106 and -107 of the Colorado Code of Criminal Procedure. At the motion hearing, the public defender stated that “[b]ecause the juvenile code is silent, they are referring to the adult code,” which entitles a criminal defendant to a second competency evaluation at state expense. Concluding that the Children’s Code was “specifically silent on that issue,” the district court determined that the adult competency provisions did not apply to this case.

The Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the public defender’s request for a second competency evaluation pursuant to CRS §§ 16-8.5-106 and -107, because these adult competency provisions do not apply in juvenile justice proceedings either explicitly or by implication. The Court concluded the General Assembly created two distinct competency frameworks: (1) promoting the criminal justice system’s goal of just punishment; and (2) advancing the juvenile justice system’s goal of appropriately sanctioning juvenile offenders, taking into consideration their own and society’s best interests. The juvenile competency provisions require a court to order an evaluation at any stage of the proceedings if it develops doubts about the alleged juvenile offender’s competency that are not satisfied by available information. The Court discharged the rule and returned the case to the district court for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here.

Filing Fees Temporarily Reduced in Certain Civil Actions

The Colorado Supreme Court has issued a new Chief Justice Directive, which temporarily reduces the filing fees for certain civil actions, effective January 23, 2012.

CJD 12-02 temporarily decreases filing fees credited to the Justice Stabilization fund.  Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes, cash funds must maintain no more than a 16 percent excess fund balance, and it is projected that the fund will exceed this target reserve limit.  In order to comply with the statutory requirement, Chief Justice Bender has temporarily reduced filing fees.

As necessary, the Chief Justice may later increase these fees back to their statutorily permitted level.

The reduced fees apply across the board throughout Colorado courts and are outlined in Appendix A to CJD 12-02 – “Temporary Reduction of Filing Fees in Certain Civil Actions”

Questions about the change may be directed to Linda Bowers, Court Services Manager, at (720) 921-7839 or linda.bowers@judicial.state.co.us.

Colorado Supreme Court: Error to Determine that Single Circumstance of Filing Parenting-Time Motion Precluded Finding of Intent to Abandon

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in D.P.H. v. J.L.B., and Concerning A.B. on September 12, 2011.

Abandonment Determination—CRS § 19-15-203—Delay of Adoption Proceeding—Totality of the Circumstances—Parenting-Time Motion.

The abandonment inquiry focuses on whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the parent’s intent during the twelve months preceding the commencement of the adoption proceeding was to abandon the child. It is the trial court’s responsibility to consider the totality of the circumstances and to make this factual determination, which is to be disturbed only if it is clearly erroneous. Here, the evidence before the juvenile court of the father’s intent during the twelve-month period was conflicting. Therefore, it was error for the court of appeals to determine that a single circumstance—father’s filing of a parenting-time motion—precluded a finding of intent to abandon, essentially as a matter of law.

In addition, it is unnecessary for a trial court to delay adoption proceedings until a parenting-time motion in another court is resolved, as long as the trial court adequately considers the parenting-time motion in making its abandonment determination. Here, the court of appeals erred in holding that the juvenile court should have delayed the adoption proceedings until the father’s parenting-time motion was resolved. The court of appeals’ judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here.

Second Judicial District Court on the Move, Literally, This Week

Monday, July 28 is the last day for Second Judicial District Court felony criminal, drug, and juvenile matters to be heard at Denver’s City and County Building.

The Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse, located at 520 W. Colfax Ave., will open for business on Tuesday, July 6, following the Independence Day holiday weekend. Named for two distinguished Colorado judges, the new $36 million justice center will house 29 spacious new courtrooms and offices for the district attorney, city attorney, clerks of court, public defender, probation, jury assembly, and jury commissioner, as well as temporary inmate holding for both adults and juveniles. An underground tunnel will connect the courthouse to the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, specifically designed for the safe transport of inmates between the detention center and courthouse.

During the week of the move, district and county court criminal and juvenile cases will be heard on an as-needed or emergency basis. The full docket resumes for all courts on July 6.

Of the new courthouse, Second Judicial District Chief Judge Robert S. Hyatt said:

“We are very pleased to be making the move to the new courthouse. The Lindsey-Flanigan complex stands as a modern symbol of the rule of law with its safety features and technological capabilities helping to ensure effective and efficient administration of justice.”

Matters to be heard at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse include:

  • Misdemeanors, such as DUI and third-degree assaults;
  • Municipal ordinance violations, such as disturbing the peace, loitering, and domestic violence;
  • Building and zoning code violations;
  • Municipal ordinance violations committed by juveniles, such as petty theft, trespass, and curfew violations;
  • Felonies through preliminary hearing;
  • Felony criminal matters;
  • Drug charges; and
  • Juvenile matters.

Courtroom assignments are detailed here.

Matters heard at the Denver City and County Building after the July 6 move include:

  • Traffic violations; and
  • District court civil matters.

District court family matters are currently being heard at 303 W. Colfax, but will return to the City and County Building on August 16. County court civil (including protection orders) and small claims cases will still be heard at 1515 Cleveland Place, Fourth Floor. Parking violations will still be heard in the Parking Magistrate’s Office at 201 W. Colfax, First Floor.

The Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse was once the former Rocky Mountain News building and was “deconstructed,” rather than demolished, a process utilizing recycled building materials in keeping with earth-friendly construction practices. It features many of the sustainability merits needed to qualify for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation (still pending), including two “green” roofs, systems for efficient lighting and water usage, a naturally ventilated atrium, recyclable item collection, and bicycle storage.

The legal legacies of Judge Benjamin Barr Lindsey and Judge James C. Flanigan are commemorated in the naming of the new courthouse. Judge Lindsey is remembered for establishing the stand-alone juvenile court system in Denver and for fighting the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Judge Flanigan was the first African American in Colorado to serve as deputy district attorney, Denver municipal court judge, and Denver District Court judge. The courthouse also features the Cisneros Jury Assembly Room, named after Judge Roger Cisneros, a Colorado State senator, WWII veteran, founder of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA). Though retired, Judge Cisneros remains active in legal and judicial activities.

(image source: City of Denver)