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Justices decline to reconsider out-of-state placements ruling

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The Indiana Supreme Court has denied a rehearing petition from the state attorney general’s office to revisit a June ruling that upheld three statutes involving juvenile judges’ authority on out-of-state placements.

On Tuesday, the justices unanimously denied the request in the case of In The Matter of A.B. v. State, No. 71S00-1002-JV-00156.

St. Joseph Probate Judge Peter Nemeth had placed a troubled teenager in an Arizona treatment facility after an escape from a South Bend location, but the Indiana Department of Child Services objected. It blocked the placement based on its ability to do so following sweeping legislative changes in 2009 that gave the state agency more authority in that decision-making process where state funding is involved.

That led to the local judge declaring the statutes unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court disagreed on the constitutionality, finding the budget-focused laws are valid and that the DCS has statutory power to take costs into account when considering placements. But while upholding the controversial law changes, the justices simultaneously held that the state agency acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in this specific case, because it appeared the DCS made the placement decision because of the location and not because of overall costs and benefits of the juvenile.

In asking for rehearing, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General says the justices went too far in analyzing the specific case involving A.B. and the facts surrounding the DCS placement denial in that situation. Instead, the AG argued that the justices should have simply addressed the constitutionality of the statutes and stopped there, rather than finding the DCS refusal was “arbitrary and capricious.” The decision, written by Justice Steven David for a unanimous court, left open too many questions and warrants reconsideration or further explanation, the AG’s brief said.

Citing non-juvenile cases from the past three decades, the AG argued that Indiana appellate courts have held some state agency actions – such as Department of Correction decisions on restitution, loss of earned credit time and inmate segregation – are not reviewable by the state judiciary. State statute doesn’t provide any criteria for the DCS to use in evaluating out-of-state placements and the Supreme Court didn’t outline any in its June decision.

The justices denied transfer without an opinion, and this final decision leaves the June decision in place.
 

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