Court: punitive penalty not allowed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A juvenile court erred when it found a juvenile in civil contempt of court and imposed an additional term of confinement as a result, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In K.L.N. v. State of Indiana, No. 71A03-0708-JV-411, K.L.N., a juvenile, had appealed the juvenile court's decision to impose an additional term of confinement against him for being found in contempt of court. K.L.N. was confined to a secure facility for 120 days and often did not follow the rules. As a result, he had some privileges taken away by the facility, and the juvenile court modified the terms of his dispositional decree to include an order that he must follow the rules of the facility.

After breaking more rules and being found in indirect contempt of court, the juvenile court added 77 days to his term of detention.

Although K.L.N. was released from commitment and probation, closing his case before the appeals process was finished, authoring Chief Judge John Baker wrote in a footnote the court would still rule on the issue because it is a question of public interest that is likely to recur.

The Court of Appeals ruled the juvenile court erred by holding K.L.N. in contempt and lengthening his term of confinement. The juvenile court had ordered that for every day of his original confinement in which he was well-behaved, one day would be subtracted from the contempt detention.

A penalty imposed by a court for an act of civil contempt must be coercive or remedial rather than punitive in nature. The judges looked to caselaw outside of Indiana for guidance on the subject. The Washington Court of Appeals found a juvenile court erred when it ordered a teen, who had numerous unexcused absences from school, to attend school or else be found in contempt and forced to serve detention for each violation. After being found in contempt on three separate occasions for violating the order, the juvenile court ordered the teen to serve two days of secured detention. The nature of the sanctions were not remedial but punitive because the teen could not immediately satisfy the conditions of the court and remained in jeopardy of incarceration.

Because the juvenile court failed to provide a genuine means for the teen to purge the contempt, the sanction was punitive, imposed, and suspended on conditions, thus, it was criminal in nature and not civil, wrote Chief Judge Baker. Similarly, the condition put on K.L.N. by the juvenile court to follow the rules for the rest of his detention and allowing days to be subtracted for previous good behavior was not within K.L.N.'s capacity to complete at the time the sanctions were imposed.

Indiana statute has not allowed juvenile courts to have authority to "micro-manage" the detention of a juvenile delinquent, he wrote. A trial court would not have the authority to lengthen an inmate's sentence for failure to abide by prison rules. Thus, it is up to the detention facility to institute a punishment for bad behavior, not the courts.

The appellate court found the juvenile court erred and reversed the decision.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues