IN THE INTEREST OF J.P., A MINOR; R.P. AND D.O.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/09/2013.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY
YOUTH COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOE DALE WALKER.
ATTORNEYS: REGINALD BLACKLEDGE.
FOR APPELLANTS: JACOB WAYNE HOWARD, ROBERT B. McDUFF, SIBYL BYRD, DAVID NEIL McCARTY, JODY EDWARD OWENS, II, VANESSA JUDITH CARROLL.
FOR APPELLEE: B. SCOTT BUFFINGTON, CHRISTOPHER RANDALL PURDUM.
BEFORE DICKINSON, P.J., KITCHENS AND CHANDLER, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON, P.J., LAMAR, CHANDLER, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR. RANDOLPH, P.J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - JUVENILE JUSTICE
¶1. The Jefferson Davis County Youth Court held J.P., a minor, in a juvenile detention facility for 103 days, then in the Jefferson Davis County Jail for thirty days more when J.P. attained age eighteen. J.P. was never adjudicated delinquent. No hearing was held on the question of his delinquency. After more than four months in custody, he was released. The court nevertheless ordered his parents to pay the nearly $10,000 cost of J.P.'s 103-day confinement in juvenile detention. We reverse the judgment of the youth court and render judgment in favor of the parents. The State cannot charge the parents of a minor for his detention when that detention was never legally justified.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶2. J.P.'s father, D.O., and his mother, R.P., are separate parties in this litigation. While both are contesting J.P.'s 103-day detention and its associated costs, D.O. also is contesting a different five-day detention imposed upon J.P. in 2011, for which D.O. was ordered to pay the costs.
¶3. At some point in 2011, J.P. was arrested for the possession of marihuana and was required to wear an ankle monitor as a condition of his release on the marihuana charge. J.P. was brought back to youth court because it was alleged that he repeatedly had allowed the monitor to power down on weekends, making it impossible for his location to be tracked. The hearing for this alleged violation occurred on August 10, 2011. J.P. and his father, D.O., were issued summonses to appear at the hearing. Handwritten notes on the summonses show that both father and child were served on August 8, 2011, two days before the hearing. J.P., the juvenile, was assigned court-appointed counsel for the hearing. At the hearing, the youth court referee stated that, although no petition for contempt had been filed against J.P., the court was within its power sua sponte to find him in contempt and to sentence him to a juvenile detention facility for five days. J.P. was not proven delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt.
J.P.'s father, D.O., was ordered to pay the costs associated with J.P.'s detention. The total was $550 for the detention and $100 for the child's transportation to and from the facility. D.O. alone is contesting these costs.
¶4. On June 21, 2012, J.P. was arrested in Jefferson Davis County for possession of marihuana and a handgun. He was placed in the temporary custody of the Pike County Juvenile Detention Center until a detention hearing could be held on June 25, 2012. After the detention hearing, of which there is no transcript, the court ordered that J.P. would remain in the detention center until an adjudicatory hearing could be conducted. No date or time for the adjudication hearing was set, but the boilerplate language of the fill-in-the-blank order states that a prosecutorial petition was to be filed against J.P. within five days of the date of the order. J.P.'s parents were ordered on that same day to pay $55.00 per day each while J.P. was in juvenile detention. The State failed to file a petition within five days of the hearing.
¶5. On August 13, 2012, forty-eight days after the detention hearing and forty-three days after the petition was due, the youth court ordered that a formal petition be filed against J.P. The same day, a petition was filed against the juvenile, accusing him of " CONTEMPT OF COURT in violation of § 43-21-153 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated against the peace and dignity of Mississippi." The charging document offered no facts in support of the petition. Summonses were issued to J.P. and his parents on August 13, 2012, for a hearing that was to take place on August 15, 2012. However, on that day, the court, on its own motion, ordered a continuance of the matter until October 2, 2012, J.P.'s eighteenth birthday. No reason was given for the continuance ordered on August 15, 2012, except the conclusory statements that good cause was shown and the motion for continuance was well taken. No record was made of this hearing. The court also ordered J.P.'s mother and father to pay $600 each per month to cover the costs of holding J.P. in the detention center in Pike County.
¶6. On October 2, 2012, the adjudication hearing was postponed again. As before, no record was made of the proceedings. The court transferred J.P. to the Jefferson Davis County Jail because he had reached the age of eighteen. By that time, he had spent 103 days in the juvenile detention facility. The order stated that the court was permitting a continuance to allow J.P.'s parents to obtain counsel. On October 15, 2012, counsel for J.P. entered their appearances and requested permission to access J.P.'s youth court records. Three days after entering their appearances, counsel for J.P. filed a Motion for Immediate Release, arguing that J.P.'s detention was unlawful because it violated the constitutional guarantees of due process and it violated several provisions of the Mississippi Youth Court Law. A hearing was held on the motion on October 31, 2012, after which the court released J.P. from custody and terminated its jurisdiction over him. At the same hearing, J.P.'s mother, R.P., went before the court to explain that she was unable to pay the $600 per month that the court had ordered her to pay for J.P.'s detention fees. The court ordered her to pay $100 per month until her debt was paid. The clerk's office sent an accounting of costs to the mother
which showed that she owed half of $11,420 to cover J.P.'s detention and transportation costs.
¶7. On January 16, 2013, R.P. filed a Motion to Vacate Orders to Pay the Costs of Transporting and Detaining [J.P.] She argued that the orders were invalid because J.P.'s detention was unlawful, it violated the Youth Court Law, no adequate formal petition was ever brought against him, he was detained for longer than the youth court was permitted to detain him, and his constitutional rights to due process were violated. After a hearing on the motion, the court reduced the per diem cost of detaining J.P. from $110 to $90, reducing the total amount owed for his detention and transportation from $11,420 to $9,380. The parents each owed half, $4,690, according to the youth court. The court's final order upholding the majority of the costs levied against J.P.'s parents consisted of a single page which attached the entire 113-page transcript of the hearing of January 16, 2013, as " the Final Order of this Court."
¶8. The parents have filed separate appeals from the order of the court below. Their appeals have been consolidated. Both are appealing from the order assessing $9,380 against them for the detention of J.P., which occurred despite his never having been adjudicated delinquent. D.O. alone is appealing the earlier decision of the same court which charged him $650 for the cost of holding his son, J.P., in a juvenile detention facility for five days.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
¶9. " The appellate standard of review for youth court proceedings is the same as that which we apply to appeals from chancery court. . . ." A.B. v. Lauderdale County Dep't of Human Servs., 13 So.3d 1263, 1266-67 (¶ 14) (Miss. 2009). J.P.'s parents are arguing that the youth court did not have the power to levy J.P.'s detention and transportation fees against them as a matter of law. This Court reviews matters of law de novo. See Matter of Estate of Mason, 616 So.2d 322, 327 (Miss. 1993).
I. The 2011 Detainment
¶10. J.P. was committed to the Pike County Juvenile Detention Center in August 2011 for five days for violating the conditions of his release on a marihuana charge. His father D.O. attended the hearing and was ordered to pay the costs of J.P.'s detention and his transportation to and from the facility, which amounted to $650. D.O. argues that the youth court did not have jurisdiction to commit J.P. to the detention center and therefore did not have the authority to order D.O. to pay for the cost of ...