FROM BREATHITT CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE LARRY MILLER, JUDGE
ACTION NOS. 16-J-00011, 16-J-00011-002
FOR APPELLANT: Laura A. Karem Frankfort, Kentucky
FOR APPELLEE: Gary Salyers Jackson, Kentucky
BEFORE: ACREE, JONES, AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.
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 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.
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
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
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
-DAC report entered in file
not appear that the Perry District Court ever held the
scheduled review hearing. Apparently, C.S.'s father
relocated to Breathitt County. 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.
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
[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.
(R. at 16).
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