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CJ: Most players in appeals acting responsibly

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Juvenile Justice

The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer to a case in which a juvenile delinquent was placed in an Arizona facility over the objections of the Department of Child Services. The order also included a strongly worded explanation from the court’s chief justice that he would “smack down” judicial overreaching or overspending.

The DCS filed a petition to transfer jurisdiction pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rule 14.1, which allows for expedited appeal of certain juvenile matters. On Aug. 10, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the placement of D.S. in an out-of-state facility despite objections from DCS. The appellate court ruled the Madison Superior Court complied with statutes that allow it to place a juvenile in a non-Indiana facility.

A recent change in one of those statutes now shifts the burden of paying for those facilities from DCS to counties.

The justices unanimously denied transfer, with Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard expounding on the denial of the second case to reach them under the new “rocket docket.”

The first case dealt with how quickly a child should be moved from placement with a relative living in Indiana to placement with the mother in another part of the state. The courts found it to be best for the child to finish the school year with the relative, then move.

“It hardly seemed the stuff of runaway trial judge spending,” wrote the chief justice about the first case. He noted the trial judge in the case of D.S. has been appealed for choosing the least expensive placement.

The DCS wanted the judge to be ordered to place D.S. in an Indiana facility, which would cost at least 50 percent more per day than the Arizona facility. Everyone involved in the case, except DCS, believe the Arizona facility is the best one for the child, which is the point of government intervention, Chief Justice Shepard noted.

“I stand fully ready to smack down anything that even sniffs of judicial overreaching or overspending,” he continued. “But if the appeals we have seen so far represent the worse instances of attacks on the public fisc, it suggests to me that judges, prosecutors, probation departments, and guardians are acting very responsibly.”

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