Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Page 1


S.C. to Decide if Juvenile May Be Held for Violating U.S. Law


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The California Supreme Court yesterday agreed to decide whether state courts may adjudicate a delinquency proceeding in which a juvenile is accused of violating a federal statute.

The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, voted unanimously to grant review in In re Jose C., D049525, which was decided by the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s Div. One on Oct. 1.

The Court of Appeal affirmed Imperial Superior Court Judge William Lehman’s ruling declaring a then-16-year-old boy to be a ward of the juvenile court based on a finding that he committed a federal crime by bringing undocumented aliens into the United States.

Jose was arrested by the Border Patrol in August 2006, after agents tracked footprints across the border into the desert near Calexico. Jose and several other persons were spotted hiding in bushes by an agent in a helicopter.

Jose and six others were detained by an agent on the ground. It was subsequently determined that the other six were aliens and had not presented themselves at the border.

Lehman ruled that he had jurisdiction under Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 602, which allows juvenile courts to hear the case of any minor who has violated “any law of this state or of the United States or any ordinance.”

The Court of Appeal, in an opinion by Justice Judith Haller, agreed. Federal courts, she noted, have rejected claims that federal law preempts states from applying their juvenile court statutes to minors accused of federal crimes.

The justice also noted that the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 limits federal court jurisdiction over juveniles and reflects a policy generally favoring state jurisdiction over cases involving juvenile offenders, replacing prior law that gave federal courts unlimited jurisdiction over juveniles accused of violating federal laws.

Haller also rejected Jose’s contention that the exercise of juvenile court jurisdiction was inconsistent with the federal government’s exclusive authority over issues of immigration and alienage.

“By upholding state court jurisdiction over a juvenile’s alleged immigration-related violation, the state does not regulate or criminalize immigration matters,” the jurist wrote. “Rather, it is merely providing a forum for adjudicating violations of federal law by a juvenile.  The state has a strong interest in ensuring that minors who violate laws—whether the laws are local, state, or federal—obtain the protective and rehabilitative objectives of the state juvenile justice system.”


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