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C.S. v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

July 27, 2018



          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Laura A. Karem Frankfort, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Gary Salyers Jackson, Kentucky



          JONES, JUDGE.

         The Appellant, C.S., a juvenile, appeals an order from the Breathitt Family Court holding her in contempt of court. Having reviewed the record in conjunction with applicable legal authority, we reverse. C.S. was not properly charged with contempt. C.S. was originally charged with the status offense of being a habitual runaway. Having thoroughly reviewed the record, we are unable to locate any valid court order entered as part of the status offense case regulating C.S.'s future conduct. See KRS[1] 600.020(69) (defining a valid court order). A court may only hold a child in contempt of court to enforce a valid court order previously issued by the court. KRS 610.010(11). It is manifestly unjust to subject a juvenile to sanctions for contempt, especially confinement in a detention facility, when the status offense case against her was effectively terminated without the entry of a valid written order regulating her future conduct. Additionally, the Breathitt Family Court found that C.S. committed "the public offense" of contempt of court even though the Juvenile Code is clear that contempt of court is not a public offense.

         I. Background

         The Appellant, C.S., ran away from her foster home in Hazard, Kentucky, on October 27, 2015, and was found on November 5, 2015. The next day, C.S. ran away again after a forensic interview at the Care Cottage in Hazard, Kentucky. As a result, it was alleged in a complaint/petition to the Perry District Court dated November 9, 2015, that C.S. was a habitual runaway in violation of KRS 630.020(1). (R. at 1). Billie Maggard, a court designated worker/specialist completed a preliminary inquiry formal/informal processing criteria and recommendations form. (R. at 2). Ms. Maggard determined that C.S.'s case was not appropriate for informal processing and recommended that C.S.'s case be referred to the Perry County Attorney for adjudication. Id. She also noted that the Perry District Court had detained C.S. pending a detention hearing. Id. A different court designated worker/specialist, Michael Waters, completed a pre-adjudicative detention criteria form. (R. at 3). Mr. Waters noted that C.S. was found "absent without leave from a secure or non-secure facility." Id. Mr. Waters also included a handwritten notation on the form indicating that, at the time she was found, C.S. was already in the Cabinet's custody, having been previously removed from her parents' custody. Id. Mr. Waters stated that while C.S. did "not meet the criteria for detention," the Trial Commissioner had ordered C.S. detained because she was a "danger to herself." Id.

         A pre-adjudication detention and arraignment hearing was held on November 24, 2015, before the Perry District Court. (R. at 7). C.S. was present at the hearing with counsel. Id. At the time of the hearing, C.S. was in custody and was being detained by the Perry County Sheriff's Office. Id. Most of the conversation at the hearing centered on an appropriate pre-adjudication placement for C.S. The parties informed the Perry District Court that C.S. had already been committed to the Cabinet's custody. After some discussion, it was decided that C.S. would be released from Perry County's custody and returned to the Cabinet's custody. At this point, the Perry District Court asked the parties if the next step was to set a date for formal adjudication/disposition on the runaway status offense charge. Counsel indicated that it might not be necessary to even adjudicate the charge "if the placement works out." Counsel then reminded the Perry District Court that a court date was already set in the Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse ("DNA") case regarding C.S. and her parents. Ultimately, the parties and Perry District Court agreed to set C.S.'s juvenile status offense case for a review on the same date as the DNA review was scheduled to take place, that is, February 24, 2016. Following the arraignment/detention hearing, the Perry District Court entered an order. The order provides as follows:

Juvenile present-RBC
Current incarcerated
Already committed to the Cabinet.
-Per DCBS child to be placed w/ Sunshine in Morehead until placement can be made @ Ramey Estep or similar
-Review on 2-24-16 @ 9 AM
-Sheriffs to transport juvenile to placement as they retain custody
-DAC report entered in file


         It does not appear that the Perry District Court ever held the scheduled review hearing. Apparently, C.S.'s father relocated to Breathitt County.[2] On March 9, 2016, the Breathitt County Attorney moved the Breathitt Family Court to set a review on March 16, 2016. (R. at 9). Following the review, the Breathitt Family Court ordered C.S.'s juvenile status offense case to be transferred from the Perry District Court to the Breathitt Family Court so that the status offense case could proceed before the same court as the DNA case. (R. at 11). The Breathitt Family Court then appointed a public advocate to represent C.S. in the juvenile case and a guardian ad litem to represent her interests in the DNA case. Id. The Breathitt Family Court also appointed separate counsel to represent C.S.'s parents in the DNA case. Id.

         On April 21, 2016, Sunrise Children's Services filed a report with the Breathitt Family Court regarding C.S. (R. at 12-14). The report indicated that C.S. was placed with Sunrise Children's Services in November 2015 and was scheduled to be returned to her parents on May 24, 2016. (R. at 12). The Cabinet also filed an update with the Breathitt Family Court regarding C.S. (R. at 15-16). It provides as follows:

[C.S.] is currently placed at Sunrise Children's Services in Morehead. [C.S.] is having behavior issues and is still currently an AWOL risk. Parents live in Breathitt County and have stated they want to work with DCBS to regain custody of [C.S.]. Parents have custody of an infant son and have another child placed in the permanent custody of a relative. Mother is currently expecting another child on Aug. 5th 2016.

(R. at 16).

         The Breathitt Family Court conducted a review hearing on May 18, 2016. (R. at 25). As part of the hearing, the Breathitt Family Court ordered C.S. to remain in the Cabinet's temporary custody and complete the program at Sunrise Children's Services. Id. The Breathitt Family Court included a notation in its order that continuance of the placement was in C.S.'s "best interest as she is not ...

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