A.C. v. Com., Ky COA, Due Process, Contempt, Juvenile Status Offenders

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A.C. v. Com., 2009-CA-000714-ME  

Published:   Vacating, Remanding, and Denying Motion to Dismiss

County: JESSAMINE

 

Child appealed FC’s order finding her in contempt of court for violation of juvenile probation.

 

FACTS:

Parents filed “beyond control” juvenile complaint against Child in 2007, and Child requested formal hearing.  A proceeding occurred as a result of the Complaint, but evidence was not taken and the record does not reflect that Child admitted to being beyond control.  FC nonetheless found that Child was beyond control of her parents and entered a “Juvenile Status Offender Order” finding Child to be a status offender.  Child was ordered to serve 1 year of probation per the terms of the Order, which would end in June 2008.  During the probationary period, Cabinet filed a DNA petition with regard to Child, alleging physical and emotional abuse and neglect of Child by Mother and Stepfather.  During one of the early proceedings in the DNA case, Stepfather stated that Child needed to leave the home or he would.  In Child’s presence, FC asked Mother who she would choose.  When Mother failed to choose, FC placed Child with Father, ordered no contact with Stepfather, and allowed Mother supervised visitation.  At adjudication hearing, FC found Child to be abused and continued previous visitation orders.  DNA case was closed in September 2008.  Nonetheless, a March 2009 summons was issued to Father, requiring him to bring Child to court, and Cabinet filed a Motion to Review in the DNA action.  A hearing was heard on the Motion to Review, but FC focused on a contempt charge for alleged violations of her probation, despite the fact that the probationary period had expired.  Child had received no notice that the proceeding would address an alleged violation of her probation.  Child was not allowed counsel during this proceeding, despite the presence of all other counsel.  No evidence was introduced at this hearing and Child did not admit to the allegations against her.  FC admonished Child, revoked her probation, and order her placed with DCBS for no more than 30 days. 

 

ANALYSIS:

CA found that FC, amongst many other procedural irregularities, failed to hold a hearing on the original “beyond control” complaint as required for FC to find Child to be a Status Offender.  However, since no appeal was taken from that Order, CA was without jurisdiction to reverse the Order. 

 

CA further found that Child was not provided written notice of the specific grounds constituting her alleged probation violation prior to appearing in court. Furthermore, pursuant to KRS 610.265(3)(d) and KRS 610.060(2)(a), FC erred when it heard arguments from the Cabinet, the County Attorney, the GAL, and the attorneys for Child’s parents for more than five minutes during the hearing without Child’s counsel being present to represent her. However, Child was given the opportunity to speak with her attorney prior to FC finding her in contempt for violating the terms of her probation. Nonetheless, no evidence was taken on the alleged violations, and Child did not admit to them. FC also failed to provide a written statement as to the “evidence” it relied upon in support of its finding of contempt and its decision to revoke her probation.  Accordingly, the proceeding which led to Child’s detention was replete with due process violations. The order of March 12, 2009, must be vacated because FC had no jurisdiction to hold her in contempt once the 2007 status offense action expired pursuant to the terms of Child’s probation. 

 

FC’s Order vacated.

 

Digested by Michelle Eisenmenger Mapes, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates  

 

 

 

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