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. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.