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In re K.J.R.

Supreme Court of Montana

March 7, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: K.J.R. A Youth.

          Submitted on Briefs: January 18, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Ninth Judicial District, In and For the County of Toole, Cause No. DJ 12-05 Honorable Robert G. Olson, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, James Reavis, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana.

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Merle Raph, Toole County Attorney, Shelby, Montana.

          OPINION

          DIRK M. SANDEFUR JUSTICE.

         ¶1 K.J.R. challenges the legality of a Youth Court order that committed him to the Department of Corrections for placement at the Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         ¶2 We reframe the issues on appeal as follows:

1. Did the Youth Court err by revoking the youth's previously imposed youth court commitment and committing him to the Department of Corrections for placement at a state youth correctional facility?
2. Did counsel for K.J.R. provide ineffective assistance by failing to object to revocation proceedings in the absence of previously imposed probationary conditions?

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 By petition filed June 20, 2012, the State charged twelve-year-old K.J.R. with seven felony and misdemeanor offenses including theft of a motor vehicle, theft of a .40 caliber handgun, criminal mischief in the shooting of a calf, criminal trespass, and accountability to theft of a motor scooter in Toole County, Montana. Upon K.J.R.'s admission that he committed "an act which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a criminal act, " the Ninth Judicial District Youth Court adjudicated K.J.R. to be a "delinquent youth, " as defined by § 41-5-103(11)(a), MCA.

         ¶4 At the time of the original dispositional hearing on July 12, 2012, K.J.R.'s parents were both incarcerated on drug-related offenses and unavailable to parent him. The Youth Court committed K.J.R. "to the supervision" of the Youth Court until age eighteen, or sooner released, for placement at a specific therapeutic group home in Billings. The dispositional order further provided that the "Youth Court Officer shall have the ability to find an alternative suitable placement" if the specified placement was "not attainable."

         ¶5 For reasons not of record on appeal, the supervising juvenile probation officer initially placed the youth at a non-therapeutic group home in Great Falls. Over the next three years, the juvenile probation officer moved K.J.R. in and out of a sequence of juvenile facilities and foster care homes. Between placements, K.J.R. spent considerable time in juvenile detention until his probation officer could secure the next placement.

         ¶6 K.J.R.'s first placement at the Missouri River Group Home in Great Falls lasted only a few months before the facility requested his removal for disruptive behavior and violations of house rules. The probation officer next placed K.J.R. at the Youth Christian Ranch in Roundup, which lasted two years before the facility requested his removal due to disorderly conduct, truancy, and marijuana use. The next placement at the North Skyline Youth Home in Great Falls ended within a few weeks after K.J.R. fought with other boys and violated house rules.

         ¶7 Violations of house rules similarly triggered K.J.R.'s removal from his fourth placement at a therapeutic foster care home in Shelby. His juvenile probation officer then arranged for a kinship placement with an aunt in Shelby in anticipation of the return of K.J.R.'s mother upon her completion of a prerelease program in Great Falls.

         ¶8 On September 8, 2015, based on new allegations that fifteen-year-old K.J.R. had recently been truant, insubordinate at school, involved in an assault, and failed to timely return to Shelby from Great Falls, the State filed a petition to revoke K.J.R.'s Youth Court probation. At the adjudicatory hearing on September 30, 2015, the Youth Court adjudicated the alleged probation violations as true.

         ¶9 The Youth Court continued the dispositional hearing four times to allow K.J.R.'s counsel time to find an alternative therapeutic placement. At the hearing on October 29, 2015, counsel reported that his efforts to secure placement for K.J.R. failed because K.J.R. lacked an up-to-date psychiatric evaluation. A contemplated out-of-state therapeutic placement required Medicaid funding, which was not available without a current psychiatric evaluation.[1]

         ¶10 At the close of the dispositional hearing, the Youth Court revoked K.J.R.'s original commitment to the Youth Court for private, out-of-home placement. Pursuant to the recommendations of the juvenile probation officer and the youth placement committee, the Court committed K.J.R. to the supervision of the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) for placement at the Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility until ...


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