Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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Kentucky’s Health and Family Services commenced a Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse proceeding. The mother stipulated to neglecting her children. Kentucky placed both boys in foster care. R.O., the mother’s aunt, sought custody of the children. The state conducted a standard home evaluation and criminal background check on R.O. and eventually both children were placed in her home by court order. The family court closed the action and granted joint custody to the mother and R.O., though the boys remained living with R.O., who sought foster care maintenance payments. The family court declined to rule on the issue, “indicating that permanency had been achieved.” R.O. then sued the state, arguing that the federal Child Welfare Act, 42 U.S.C. 672(a), required the state to provide maintenance payments, and that the failure to make payments violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The state removed the case to federal court. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the Child Welfare Act provides no privately enforceable rights, that the family lacked a property interest in the payments, and that Kentucky’s scheme rationally distinguished between relative and non-relative foster care providers. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the Act creates a private right of action. View "D.O. v. Glisson" on Justia Law

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Michigan charged and tried the named plaintiffs as adults for acts they committed while under the age of 18. Each received a conviction for first-degree murder and a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2010, plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the Michigan statutory scheme that barred them from parole eligibility. Since then, the Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama (2012), “that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments,’” Michigan amended its juvenile offender laws in light of Miller, but made some changes contingent upon either the Michigan Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court announcing that Miller applied retroactively, and the U.S. Supreme Court held in Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), that Miller’s prohibition on mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders is retroactive. The district court held, in 2013, that Miller should apply retroactively and issued an injunction requiring compliance with Miller. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded for consideration of remedies in the context of the new legal landscape and to determine whether class certification is required to extend relief to non-plaintiffs. View "Hill v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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A family member reported to Michigan Children’s Protective Services (CPS) that Barber was neglecting J.B. Miller, a CPS social worker, interviewed J.B. at his public elementary school without a court order or Barber’s consent. Miller interviewed Barber, who defended his marijuana and prescription-drug use as medically authorized. Days later, Miller again interviewed J.B. at school without a court order or parental consent and spoke with J.B.’s paternal grandmother. Miller obtained a court order, placing J.B. in protective custody pending a hearing, Mich. Comp. Laws 722.638, and picked J.B. up from school. After a hearing, the judge found probable cause to support the petition, but returned J.B. to Barber’s custody conditioned on: Barber’s abstaining from marijuana, submitting to drug screening, and ensuring that J.B. has constant adult supervision. Barber sued Miller under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating his substantive due process rights by interviewing J.B. without a court order or parental consent; falsehoods in the petition; and removing J.B. from school, and challenged the statute as facially unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal on grounds of absolute and qualified immunity and found that Barber lacked standing for his constitutional challenge to the statute. View "Barber v. Miller" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Atkins, age 16, found his mother crying. Atkins claim his step-father regularly abused him and his mother. Atkins went into the step-father’s bedroom, carrying a baseball bat. The step-father reached for what Atkins believed to be a gun. Atkins swung the bat several times, killing the step-father. Atkins was convicted of first-degree murder. Atkins unsuccessfully appealed without raising ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claims. In unsuccessful state post-conviction proceedings, he alleged IAC. In 2009, Atkins, pro se, sought habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254, claiming that juvenile counsel failed to explain his right to testify and that such testimony would not be used against him; refused the state’s motion for a mental evaluation; and failed to raise an insanity defense after Atkins stated he was “hearing voices.” Atkins asserted that trial counsel failed to: move to suppress Atkins’s statement to police; object to the prosecutor’s extracting an improper promise from the jury during voir dire; request a curative instruction concerning improper testimony; object to descriptions of graphic photos after the photos themselves were ruled inadmissible; adequately cross-examine as to how long the step-father may have survived after the attack; call Atkins’s mother as a witness; question whether the step-father’s medical problems could have contributed to his death; call any expert witness; rebut evidence concerning the step-father’s peaceable character; seek “reckless homicide” and “criminally negligent homicide” jury instructions; and raise an insanity defense. The court denied Atkins’s petition finding that all but one claim procedurally defaulted. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding certain claims not defaulted. View "Atkins v. Holloway" on Justia Law

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Pierce Township Officer Homer responded to a call from S.L.’s mother and “smelled smoke.” S.L.’s mother stated that her teenage son had set fires in the house and that she had found smoldering Popsicle sticks in his bedroom. Homer entered S.L.’s bedroom. Popsicle sticks were not visible, but S.L. allegedly admitted that he had the fire. Homer asked whether he was afraid that the house might catch fire. S.L. responded, “I really don’t care.” Homer arrested S.L. for aggravated arson, transported him to the Juvenile Detention Center, and prepared a complaint charging S.L. as delinquent. Bartley, a deputy clerk, signed the complaint, attesting that Homer had taken an oath in his presence, but never administered the oath. S.L. appeared 12 hours later before Judge Wyler, who scheduled the pre-trial hearing and ordered continued detention pending psychological evaluation. S.L. was released a week later; the charge was dismissed. S.L. sued. Concerning claims against Homer under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court held that a genuine dispute of material fact existed on probable cause for arrest. Concerning Bartley, the court held that there is no duty for a detention clerk to make an independent assessment of probable cause and that a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether Bartley had legal authority to administer oaths. The court denied summary judgment for the township because the judge did not make a probable-cause determination. There was insufficient evidence that police training was inadequate. The court denied summary judgment based on a qualified immunity defense. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "S.L. v. Pierce Twp. Bd. of Trustees" on Justia Law

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Wershe was 17 years and 10 months old when he was arrested in Detroit and charged with various drug crimes. He was convicted of possession with the intent to deliver more than 650 grams of cocaine, and, in 1988, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At sentencing, Wershe was 18 years and 7 months old. In 1992, the Michigan Supreme Court declared the life-without-parole penalty for simple possession unconstitutional. Wershe’s first opportunity for parole was denied in 2003. In 2012, the Parole Board determined that it had no interest in taking action on his case and scheduled Wershe’s next interview for 2017. Wershe brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Michigan Parole Board members, alleging that the parole consideration process did not afford him a meaningful opportunity for release in violation of his rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The district court sua sponte dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of Wershe’s due-process claim, but vacated with respect to the Eight Amendment because the district court failed to consider the impact of Wershe’s youth at the time of the crime and his arrest.View "Wershe v. Combs" on Justia Law

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The employers were formerly contributing members of the Teamsters Local Union No. 293 Pension Plan. In 2007-2008 each employer reached an agreement with the Plan to terminate its membership. They were required to pay, and have paid, “withdrawal liability” reflecting each employer’s share of unfunded, vested pension benefits under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, 29 U.S.C. 1381–1461. Under the Act, if the plan is terminated altogether by a “mass withdrawal” of the remaining members within three years, the earlier withdrawing members may be subject to additional “reallocation liability.” Disputes about the amount of such reallocation liability are subject to mandatory arbitration. The employers claim that a 2009 mass withdrawal was expedited to occur within the three-year period in order that they would be subject to reallocation liability. The Plan trustees sought more than $12 million in additional funds from the employers. The district court dismissed their suit for failure to complete arbitration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Act requires that the claim of “sham” mass withdrawal be arbitrated. View "Knall Beverage, Inc. v. Teamsters Local Union No. 293 Pension Plan" on Justia Law

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Responding to a report of underage drinking in a home, officers found a group celebrating eighth grade graduation. Police asked the teens to step outside individually for breathalyzer testing. Seven tested positive for alcohol. Police arrested them and notified their parents. In the morning, a juvenile worker arrived at the police station, and, after speaking with a judge, indicated that the children were to be detained for a court appearance the next day. At the regional juvenile detention center, the minors underwent routine fingerprinting, mug shots, and metal-detection screening. During a hygiene inspection and health screening, they were required to disrobe completely for visual inspection to detect “injuries, physical abnormalities, scars and body markings, ectoparasites, and general physical condition.” A same-sex youth worker observed the juveniles for several minutes from a distance of one to two feet, recording findings for review by an R.N. The minors were required to shower with delousing shampoo. They were released the following day. The charges were dropped. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the juveniles, based on a “clearly established right for both adults and juveniles to be free from strip searches absent individualized suspicion” that negated a qualified immunity defense. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that no clearly established principle of constitutional law forbids a juvenile detention center from implementing a generally applicable, suspicionless strip-search policy upon intake into the facility. View "T. S. v. Doe" on Justia Law

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Marshall pled guilty to receiving child pornography (18 U.S.C. 2252(a) and (b)) from the time he was 15 until he was 20 years old. The district court varied downward from the guideline range and sentenced him to five years in prison, the mandatory minimum sentence for the offense, expressing concerns about the perceived harshness of that sentence. Marshall has a rare physiological condition, Human Growth Hormone Deficiency, which he believes entitles him to the Eighth Amendment protections accorded to juveniles. Although diagnosed with an I.Q. score of 87 and a mental age of 15, Marshall attended a community college part-time for four semesters, pursuing a career as a lab technician and paying his own tuition. He worked as a machine operator for a commercial bakery. He owned a car and had a credit card. He claimed that he felt like he was viewing images of his peers and that he often felt like a 15 or 16-year-old individual because of his small frame and stature. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that Marshall was an adult at the time of his crimes. View "United States v. Marshall" on Justia Law

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After her child was murdered by his father, the mother sued employees of county and state Child Protective Services (CPS) and others,, alleging negligence; violations of constitutional rights (42 U.S.C. 1983); and violation of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act--Adoption and Safe Families Act, 42 U.S.C. 670, and of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. 5106. The complaint alleged that from 1998-2007, CPS received numerous complaints about the father’s abuse and neglect of the child and his siblings. The district court rejected a defense of qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The contours of the substantive due process right to be free from government action increasing the risk of harm was not sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that pursuing the father for use of a cattle prod, while failing to immediately remove the child, would violate the child’s substantive due process rights. Given previous cases, it is not clear that a reasonable CPS official would understand that failure to seek termination of parental rights would constitute denial of procedural due process. Without ignoring the father’s role in causing the child’s death, CPS employees’ conduct cannot be said to be the “most immediate, efficient, and direct cause” of the injury. View "Jasinski v. Tyler" on Justia Law