January 28, 2015

Tenth Circuit: Congress Did Not Grant Authority to Expunge Records in Federal Youth Corrections Act

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Tokoph v. United States on Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

David Tokoph was sentenced in 1974 under the then-effective Federal Youth Corrections Act, which provided that for offenders sentenced to probation who met certain criteria, the court could set aside the conviction and provide the offender a certificate to that effect. In 1982, Tokoph was discharged, the sentence was set aside, and the court issued him a certificate to that effect. In 2012, Tokoph petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico to seal and expunge his records. The district court found it lacked authority to do so and denied the motion. Tokoph appealed.

The Tenth Circuit evaluated the case law on which Tokoph relied and found that his proposition was only supported by dicta, not holdings in the cases. To the contrary, the Tenth Circuit found the district court correctly followed binding circuit precedent in refusing to expunge the conviction. Tokoph also argued that Supreme Court precedent indicated authority to seal records, but the Tenth Circuit found that the indications were weak, and the binding Tenth Circuit precedent on point controlled. The Tenth Circuit also noted there is no applicable inherent equitable authority to grant expunction of a valid conviction.

The district court’s denial of Tokoph’s motion to expunge was affirmed. The Tenth Circuit reversed the order sealing the record.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Instructions Erroneously Failed to Consider Parent’s Actions; Error Not Harmless

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of J.G. on Wednesday, December 31, 2014.

Dependency and Neglect—Proof as to Each Parent.

In January 2014, the Fremont County Department of Human Services (FCDHS) learned that 5-year-old S.L. had told her parents that her half-brother, 11-year-old Jo.G., had touched her inappropriately while she was trying to sleep. Mother and Father immediately reported the incident to police. Investigation found that Jo.G. had also inappropriately touched his 8-year-old sister. Jo.G was criminally charged and moved to an offense-specific foster home.

FCDHS then filed a petition in dependency and neglect, alleging that all five of the children living in the home were dependent and neglected because the environment in which Jo.G. was able to sexually act out against his sisters was injurious to all of the children. Mother admitted that Jo.G was dependent and neglected, but denied the allegation as to the other four children, and requested a jury trial on the issue of their adjudication.

The jury found that although none of the children lacked proper parental care and none were homeless, each child’s environment was injurious to his or her welfare. Accordingly, the court adjudicated all as dependent and neglected.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals found that the court erred by providing jury instructions and a special verdict form that allowed the jury to determine the status of each child without considering each parent’s actions, availability, ability, andwillingness to provide reasonable parental care. The Court further concluded that the trial court’s errors were prejudicial to mother, and therefore constituted grounds for reversal. As instructed, the jury was permitted to find that a child’s dependent status in relation to any respondent parent was sufficient to find that the child was dependent and neglected as to all respondent parents. If properly instructed to separately examine the children’s status in relation to each parent, the jury might have concluded that the children’s environment was notinjurious to their welfare, because mother was available, willing, and able to provide reasonable parental care. Had the jury made such a determination, the children could not have been adjudicated as dependent and neglected.

Accordingly, the order was reversed and the case was remanded for a new adjudicatory trial. If FCDHS does not pursue adjudication, the order and decree of adjudication must be vacated and the petition dismissed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Published Concurrence Condemns Police Abuse of Children Under Color of Sovereign Immunity

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published Judge Lucero’s concurrence in Hawker v. Sandy City Corp. on Friday, December 5, 2014.

The Tenth Circuit issued its opinion in Hawker v. Sandy City Corp. as an unpublished opinion. The facts of the case were that C.G.H., a 9-year-old boy, stole an iPad from a classmate. His grandmother, who was his legal guardian, found the iPad and asked C.G.H. to return it. When he was returning it, school officials caught him with the iPad and took it from him. He was upset, and school officials forcibly restrained him and called his grandmother and the police. C.G.H. began to calm down as his grandmother spoke to him, but then the police arrived and placed the child in a forcible twist-and-lock restraint and handcuffed him as he cried, “you’re hurting me!” The grandmother took him to the doctor later that day, where he was treated for a hairline fracture to his clavicle (collarbone). In addition to the fracture, C.G.H. suffered post-traumatic stress and anxiety from this experience. The grandmother brought suit on his behalf under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the officer and the city, but the district court granted summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The Tenth Circuit reluctantly upheld the summary judgment.

Tenth Circuit Judge Lucero wrote a separate concurrence, which was published. Judge Lucero concurred with the findings of the panel, since they followed the law, but disagreed with the state of the law that allows a 9-year-old boy to be treated so forcibly. Judge Lucero writes, “It is time for a change in our jurisprudence that would deal with petty crimes by minors in a more enlightened fashion and would not automatically extend qualified immunity for conduct such as occurred in this case.” The potential future consequences for this child and society at large are great; the child is now branded a criminal and no doubt has lost all faith in the criminal justice system. And although it would be ideal if this were an isolated incident, it is not. School districts across the country are adopting swift punishment for such childish behavior, and children as young as six are handcuffed and treated as criminals.

Judge Lucero condemns the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the myriad negative consequences created by treating children as criminals. Without the benefit of an education free from duress, children are unlikely to succeed in life, and end up populating already overcrowded prisons. Instead of swift punishment, the school’s aim should be to realign the child away from criminal behavior and encourage the pursuit of a productive and educated life. As Judge Lucero says in closing, “We should change course and instead leave it to the factfinder to determine whether the handcuffing of six- to nine-year-old children is excessive force rather than giving schools and police a bye by holding them immune from liability. A more enlightened approach to elementary school discipline by educators, police, and courts will enhance productive lives and help break the school-to-prison chain.”

JDF Forms Amended in Several Categories in November and December

The Colorado State Judicial Branch revised several forms and instructions in November and December 2014. Many categories were affected, including toll ticket appeals, juvenile delinquency, domestic relations, probate, forcible entry and detainer, and sealing cases. Amended forms are available here in PDF format, and are available for download as Word documents on State Judicial’s forms page.

APPEALS

  • JDF 234 – “Notice of Appeal and Designation of Record – E-470 Case” (revised 11/14)
  • JDF 235 – “Notice of Record Certified to County Court – E-470 Case” (revised 11/14)

CRIMINAL

  • JDF 219 – “Juvenile Delinquency Application for Public Defender” (revised 11/14)

DOMESTIC

  • JDF 1101 – “Petition for: Dissolution of Marriage/Legal Separation” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 1201 – “Affidavit for Decree Without Appearance of the Parties (Marriage)” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 1601 – “Petition for Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage” (revised 12/14)

EVICTIONS

  • JDF 100 – “Instructions for Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED)/Eviction” (revised 11/14)
  • JDF 140 – “Instructions for Mobile Home FED” (revised 11/14)

MISCELLANEOUS

  • JDF 450 – “Order re: Appointment of Counsel at State Expense Other Than the Public Defender in a Criminal or Juvenile Delinquency Proceeding” (revised 11/14)

PROBATE

  • JDF 730 – “Decree of Final Discharge” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 810 – “Court Visitor’s Report” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 824 – “Petition for Appointment of Guardian for Minor” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 834 – “Guardian’s Report – Minor” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 841 – “Petition for Appointment of Guardian for Adult” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 850 – “Guardian’s Report – Adult” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 861 – “Petition for Appointment of Conservator for Minor” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 876 – “Petition for Appointment of Conservator for Adult” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 878 – “Order Appointing Conservator for Adult” (revised 12/14)
  • JDF 885 – “Conservator’s Report” (revised 12/14)

SEAL MY CASE

  • JDF 301 – “Instructions to File an Expungement Juvenile “JV” Case, Criminal “CR” Case, or Municipal Case” (revised 12/14)

For all of State Judicial’s JDF forms, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Default Judgment Improper Sanction for Nonappearance at Trial Where Attorney Present

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of K.J.B. on Thursday, December 4, 2014.

Dependency and Neglect—Right to a Jury Trial—Appearance by Counsel but not Defendant.

The Park County Department of Human Services (department) took the subject child into protective custody, placed the child with her father, and filed a petition in dependency and neglect. Mother denied the allegations in the petition and requested a trial to the court. Shortly thereafter, mother filed two written demands for a jury trial. The court denied mother’s requests.

Until that point in the proceedings, mother had participated by telephone; however, she was ordered to personally appear for the adjudicatory trial. She failed to appear, but her counsel appeared on her behalf. The department requested that a default judgment be entered against mother for failing to personally appear. Without hearing evidence, the court sustained the department’s allegations under multiple provisions of CRS §19-3-102(1) and adjudicated the child dependent and neglected by default judgment. It also adopted a treatment plan for mother. Mother appealed the adjudicatory order.

Nonappearance at trial does not constitute a failure “to plead or otherwise defend,” and is not a reason on which entry of a default can be predicated. The court could have received evidence in mother’s absence and then rendered judgment. Because the trial court did not state the legal authority it relied on to enter default judgment against mother for failing to appear, the Court of Appeals inferred that the judgment was entered as a sanction against mother. Although the court has contempt powers under CRCP 107, the rule does not authorize default judgment as a sanction for contempt. The Court therefore held that the trial court exceeded its authority in entering the default judgment. The order was reversed and the case was remanded for a trial.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Mother’s Fraud in Adoption Deprived Father Rights of Biological Parent

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in M.C. v. Adoption Choices of Colorado, Inc. on Thursday, November 20, 2014.

Termination of Parent–Child Legal Relationship—Due Process—Troxel Presumption.

On September 13, 2012, mother gave birth to twins in Grand Junction. The next day, she filed a petition for expedited relinquishment of her parental rights. She provided a first name for the children’s father, but alleged she didn’t know any other information that might have been used to locate him. Intervenors, clients of Adoption Choices of Colorado, Inc., were chosen as the children’s adoptive parents. They were present for the birth and the children were placed with them that day. Father’s legal relationship with the children was terminated, and a final decree of adoption was entered in December 2012.

In February 2013, father, who resided in Iowa, sought relief from the judgment terminating his parental rights. He alleged that mother had informed him she lost the pregnancy and that he didn’t discover her deception until December 2012.

The trial court found overwhelming evidence of fraud on the court by mother and held that the termination of father’s parental rights was void. The trial court ordered the parties to confer and arrange for father to have weekly visitation with the children. The parties could not agree on a means to accomplish this order and the court modified its order to provide for a more gradual visitation schedule. A guardian ad litem(GAL) was appointed to provide a written report for the court. The GAL found it was in the best interests of the children to maintain their secure attachment to intervenors and recommended termination of father’s parental rights.

Following a hearing, the trial court concluded that father had not established a substantial positive relationship with the children. The court held it was in the best interests of the children to terminate father’s parental right and place the children in the permanent legal custody of intervenors. The Court of Appeals reversed.

The Court held that the trial court erred by terminating father’s parental rights based on his not having established a substantial positive relationship with the children. Evidence did not support the conclusion that the children likely would suffer significant psychological harm if removed from intervenors’ home. The trial court also erred in failing to give father the benefit of the Troxel presumption. [Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000).] Having found him “not unfit,” the court was required to presume that father’s decisions were in the best interests of the children.

The Court rejected intervenors’ contention that the entry of final adoption decrees conferred on them a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of the children equal to father’s, and that the children have a fundamental right to continue their relationship with intervenors and to have a stable, permanent home. Intervenors argued that the interest of the state, as set forth in CRS § 19-5-100.2(2), is “to promote the integrity and finality of adoptions.” However, the integrity of an adoption is not to be preserved at the cost of denying the rights of a fit biological parent. On remand, the trial court must conduct a custody hearing after affording father a full and fair opportunity to establish a meaningful relationship with his children.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Various JDF Forms Amended in October and November

The Colorado State Judicial Branch continued amending JDF forms in October and November 2014, with updated forms released in the criminal, domestic relations, FED, probate, and miscellaneous categories. Forms are available for download here in PDF format, and are available in Word or PDF from the State Judicial forms page.

CRIMINAL

  • JDF 219 – “Juvenile Delinquency – Application for a Public Defender” (issued 11/14)

DOMESTIC RELATIONS

  • JDF 211 – “Request to Reduce Payment for ODR Services and Supporting Affidavit” (revised 10/14)

FORCIBLE ENTRY & DETAINER (FED)

  • JDF 100 – “Instructions for Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED)/Eviction” (revised 11/14)
  • JDF 140 – “Instructions for Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED)/Eviction for Owner Occupied Mobile Home” (revised 11/14)

MISCELLANEOUS

  • JDF 450 - “Order re: Appointment of Counsel at State Expense Other Than the Public Defender in a Criminal or Juvenile Delinquency Proceeding” (revised 11/14)

PROBATE

  • JDF 906 – “Instructions for Probate With a Will” (revised 10/14)
  • JDF 907 – “Instructions for Probate Without a Will” (revised 10/14)

For all of State Judicial’s JDF forms, click here.

Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure and Colorado Rules of Juvenile Procedure Amended

The Colorado Supreme Court announced Rule Change 2014(14), effective October 30, 2014, and 2014(15), effective November 1, 2014. Rule Change 2014(14) amends Rule 47, “Jurors,” of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule Change 2014(15) amends Rule 2.2, “Summons — Content and Service,” Rule 3, “Advisement,” and Rule 3.7, “Detention,” of the Colorado Rules of Juvenile Procedure, and it adds a new Rule 3.9, “Counsel.” The changes to the Rules of Juvenile Procedure coordinate with changes to the Colorado Revised Statutes pursuant to HB 14-1032.

C.R.C.P. 47(u), “Juror Questions,” was amended to clarify that juror questions will be reviewed with counsel for the parties outside the hearing of the jury, to permit jurors to ask follow up questions in writing, and to prohibit jurors from orally questioning any witness. The amendments specify that the court retains discretion to address juror questions or permit follow up questions. Click here for a redline of the changes to Rule 47.

The changes to the Rules of Juvenile Procedure are extensive. Rule 2.2 was amended to subdivide different types of juvenile proceedings and specify summons procedures for each type of proceeding. The changes to Rule 3 were relatively minor, adding language to clarify timing for the juvenile’s advisement and changing some wording. The changes to Rule 3.7 were much more extensive, detailing procedures for juvenile detention and court oversight of the detainer. New Rule 3.9, “Counsel,” deals with appointed counsel in juvenile delinquency proceedings, and includes provisions for appointment of counsel, waiver of counsel, and withdrawal of counsel. Click here for a redline of the changes to the Rules of Juvenile Procedure.

In addition to the rules changes, two Chief Justice Directives were amended to comply with HB 14-1032. The Colorado Supreme Court amended CJD 04-04 and added new CJD 14-01CJD 04-04 was amended to eliminate specified procedures related to the appointment of counsel in juvenile delinquency proceedings. CJD 14-01 was added to adopt new procedures for the appointment of defense counsel in juvenile delinquency proceedings. Both CJDs are effective November 1, 2014.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Permanency for Child in D&N Proceeding More Important than Reestablishing Familial Ties

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of M.D. on Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Dependency and Neglect—Foster Parents—Permanency Hearing—Compelling Reason.

The La Plata County Department of Human Services (Department) filed a petition in dependency and neglect regarding M.D. due to its concerns about the parents’ history of domestic violence and substance abuse. M.D. was placed with foster parents and, based on father’s admission to certain allegations in the petition, including that he tested positive for methamphetamine, the court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected and adopted a treatment plan for father (mother’s rights were not at issue in this case). The district court later entered judgment allocating a majority of parenting time and sole decision making authority for M.D. to the foster parents.

On appeal, father contended that the court erred in concluding that it need only find a compelling reason to allocate parental responsibility to a nonparent under the permanency hearing statute. Because CRS §19-1-115 concerns only temporary custody awards and the court’s order here was a permanent custody order, the findings under §19-1-115(6.5) were not required. Further, there was evidence in the record that the child needed permanency and that a complete transition back to father would be difficult and probably result in harm to the child.

The record also reflects that the Department made reasonable efforts to finalize permanent placement of the child and that procedural safeguards were in place to protect father’s rights. In addition, because father was not deprived of all of his parental rights, and because the trial court retained jurisdiction to modify its existing order, the trial court order relating to father’s custody and visitation rights did not require a finding of unfitness to protect his fundamental liberty interest. The record supports the court’s findings regarding several compelling reasons as to why the child could not be returned home under §19-3-702(4). Therefore, the court did not abuse it’s authority to award permanent custody to the foster parents. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Question of Prospective Harm Inappropriate for Summary Judgment in Dependency and Neglect

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of S.N. on Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Parental Rights—Termination—Dependency and Neglect—Summary Judgment—Prospective Harm.

The Boulder County Department of Human Services (Department) removed S.N. from her parents’ custody at birth because a hearing on termination of parental rights involving the parents’ three older children was pending. The trial court adjudicated S.N. dependent and neglected by summary judgment based entirely on a theory of prospective harm.

On appeal, the parents argued that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment on the Department’s petition for dependency and neglect regarding S.N. There were material facts that could affect the determination of whether S.N. should be adjudicated dependent and neglected. Therefore, the question of prospective harm was inappropriate for summary judgment because the parent’s prior conduct alone can never be sufficiently predictive of future conduct to take the question from a trier of fact by summary judgment. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded with directions.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Life Sentence Without Parole Unconstitutional for Juvenile Offender

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Gutierrez-Ruiz on Thursday, August 28, 2014.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Sentence—Juvenile—Life Without Parole—Eighth Amendment.

While defendant was driving a car, his passenger (co-defendant) shot at a truck, wounding the driver. Co-defendant later shot at another car, killing the driver. Defendant was a juvenile at the time of his arrest. A jury convicted defendant of first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. The trial court sentenced him to life without parole on the murder count and to ten years and one day on the assault count.

Defendant raised a number of claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. However, these claims were procedurally barred. Defendant further contended that his appellate counsel failed to advise him of the one-year limitation period for filing a section 2254 petition. This did not warrant relief because appellate counsel did not have an obligation to advise appellant of this post-conviction option.

Defendant asserted, the People agreed, and the Court of Appeals concurred that defendant’s mandatory sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional. Defendant’s sentence of life without parole violates the Eighth Amendment because it was imposed without any opportunity for the sentencing court to consider whether this punishment is just and appropriate in light of defendant’s age, maturity, and the other factors. Accordingly, the case was remanded for resentencing.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Doctors who Instituted Medical Hold to Prevent Child’s Discharge Not Entitled to Absolute Immunity

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Thomas v. Kaven on Tuesday, August 26, 2014.

M.T., the minor daughter of plaintiffs Legina and Todd Thomas, was placed in a mental health center after revealing suicidal ideation to a police officer who was interviewing her after her parents learned she may have been sexually assaulted. While in the hospital, M.T.’s doctors diagnosed her with a panoply of psychiatric disorders and wanted to start psychotropic medicine. Plaintiffs refused, concerned that the diagnoses were inaccurate and worried about serious side effects. The doctors reported Plaintiffs to the New Mexico Child, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) for their resistance to M.T.’s treatment. After several weeks, Plaintiffs attempted to remove M.T. from the hospital, and the doctors instituted a medical hold to prevent Plaintiffs from removing M.T. The doctors and hospital initiated court proceedings five days later, but discharged M.T. after holding her for seven days because her insurance would no longer authorize treatment. The doctors again reported Plaintiffs to CYFD for medical neglect based on their decision not to medicate their child. M.T. returned to school and nothing came of the report.

Plaintiffs sued, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on violations of their Fourteenth Amendment right to direct their child’s medical care and right to familial association. The defendant doctors asserted absolute and qualified immunity and moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, holding Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the district court erred in granting the motion to dismiss because their complaint alleged sufficient facts to sustain their claims of violations of their right to direct their child’s medical care and right to familial association.

The Tenth Circuit clarified that Defendants are not entitled to absolute immunity for seeking a judicial order regarding M.T.’s care. Defendants’ decision to prevent M.T.’s discharge was based on a medical hold that did not invoke the judicial process. The Tenth Circuit next evaluated whether dismissal was appropriate based on qualified immunity, which is usually applied at the summary judgment stage rather than in a motion to dismiss.

As to Plaintiffs’ claims that their right to direct their child’s medical care was violated, the Tenth Circuit disagreed, noting that Plaintiffs’ claim rested on Defendants’ report to CYFD, and since nothing ever came of the report, mere allegations were not enough to violate their parental rights. However, as to Plaintiffs’ claim of violation of the right to familial association, the Tenth Circuit determined Plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to illustrate a violation. The Tenth Circuit could not tell from the record whether Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and remanded for this determination.

The district court’s dismissal was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.