Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Appeals Court Says Judge Failed to Follow Law in Placing Youth in Out-of-State Facility
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal held yesterday that a Superior Court judge abused her discretion in committing a youth in a delinquency proceeding to a facility in Iowa.
The appellant, identified as Khalid B., had admitted commission of an involuntary manslaughter. The Probation Department found that he needed an out-of-home placement.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donna Hitchens is quoted in the opinion as saying, at the dispositional hearing, that she did “not believe that there’s an appropriate placement that can address his educational and mental health needs in the state of California,” but added that she was “leaving that to the Placement Department when they explore the options.”
Before recommending placement of the youth in an Iowa facility, the department considered only two local facilities, which it ruled out. Yet, Hitchens, approving the recommendation, recited that “in state facilities or programs have been determined to be unavailable or inadequate to meet the minor’s needs.”
Writing for Div. Five, Acting Presiding Justice Mark B. Simons said:
“We conclude the Iowa placement was an abuse of discretion; the trial court failed to follow the dictates of [Welfare and Institutions Code] section 727.1(b)(1). Pursuant to that provision, a court may only send a minor to an out-of-state facility if in-state facilities are “unavailable or inadequate to meet the needs of the minor.”… Nonetheless, in the present case, the Department considered only two out-of-home California placements. Both were local, and the Department found both were inadequate. That determination has not been challenged by appellant. No evidence, either direct or circumstantial, provides a basis for finding the Department even considered the adequacy of any other placement in California, including the three non-local California placements suggested by appellant that might have satisfied the goal of separating appellant from the negative influence of his mother.”
Simons declared that it “strains credibility to believe that” the two local facilities the department considered “were the only in-state facilities meriting consideration,” adding:
“Further, the Department’s dispositional report and placement reports made no mention of the services to be provided by the out-of-state facilities it considered. Such a discussion might have provided an insight into why California’s programs were believed to be inadequate for appellant’s needs.”
The case is In re Khalid B., A140708.
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