Justices dismiss as moot juvenile’s interlocutory appeal challenging placement order

The Indiana Supreme Court has dismissed as moot a juvenile’s appeal challenging her placement at a residential treatment facility, doing away with an appellate decision it says may not correctly advise courts regarding competency-related treatment.

I.J., a 14-year-old girl, was ordered by the Marion Superior Court to be detained at a residential treatment facility while she received competency restoration services following numerous acts of domestic battery and criminal recklessness she committed against her mom, including an instance where she reportedly wielded a knife.

The state had filed petitions alleging I.J. was delinquent, but the trial court found her incompetent to have those petitions adjudicated. It therefore ordered that I.J. receive competency-restoration services at the Youth Opportunity Center, where she remained for 63 days.

Before the Court of Appeals of Indiana could review I.J.’s petition to accept jurisdiction over the interlocutory appeal she brought regarding the placement, the residential center was granted its request for I.J. to be removed from its facility.

“The Court of Appeals later implicitly acknowledged this appeal had become moot because I.J. had been released from YOC and the delinquency petitions dismissed without objection. But it declined the State’s request to dismiss the appeal as moot, and it affirmed the appealed order,” the high court wrote in a Thursday per curiam decision.

“While moot appeals ordinarily are dismissed, Indiana recognizes an exception that may be invoked when the appeal involves a question of great public importance that is likely to recur. … When appellate courts invoke this exception, it results in ‘decisions which are, for all practical purposes, advisory opinions.’

“… We grant transfer, vacating the Court of Appeals opinion, and dismiss this appeal because the appeal is moot and we are not convinced the opinion correctly advises courts regarding competency related treatment before Indiana Code Chapter 31-37-26 (addressing competency in the delinquency context) takes effect on December 31, 2022,” the high court concluded.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justices Steve David, Mark Massa and Christopher Goff concurred in I.J. v. State of Indiana, 22S-JV-14, while Justice Geoffrey Slaughter concurred in the judgment to dismiss the appeal as moot.

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