In re Interest of Luis

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In re Interest of Luis

Caselaw No.
29 Neb. App. 495
Filed on
Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Summary:

The State appeals the juvenile court’s order denying the motion to transfer proceedings from the juvenile court to the district court based on the court’s interpretation of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-246.01(2) (Reissue 2016), concluding that only the juvenile court had jurisdiction over a juvenile who was age 16 or 17 at the time of an alleged misdemeanor offense.  The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.

A petition was filed in the juvenile court on August 27, 2020, alleging that on August 11, Luis committed three Class I misdemeanor offenses: third degree domestic assault, obstructing a peace officer, and resisting arrest.  Subsequently the State filed a motion to transfer to the district court, the hearing took place on September 10, 2020.  At the hearing on the 10th the juvenile court indicated it thought they was issue of whether or not the court has exclusive original jurisdiction over this case and ordered the attorneys to ”submit something in writing” regarding the issue. The court also received as evidence a police report, a criminal history print out and testimony from juvenile probation. On October 5, 2020, another took place and the court received written arguments from both the State and defense counsel related to the juvenile court’s concern about authority to transfer under § 43-246.01.  The juvenile court entered an order that same day concluding that § 43-246.01 gave it “exclusive original jurisdiction as to any juvenile who was 16 or 17 years of age at the time of the alleged offense pursuant to Sec. 43-246.01(2) and, by virtue of such, the Motion to Transfer is denied.”  The State filed an appeal.

The State’s brief did not comply with section 2-109(D)(1) and the Court could have proceeded a) as if the State had not filed a brief or b) examine the proceedings for plain error, the Court did neither in this case.  Instead the Court decided to independently review the juvenile court’s interpretation of § 43-246.01.  Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which an appellate court resolves independently of the trial court. In re Interest of Seth C., 307 Neb. 862, 951 N.W.2d 135 (2020)

The Court proceeded to analyze the issue as to whether § 43-246.01(2) and its use of the language “[e]xclusive original jurisdiction” can be reconciled with Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-274(5) (Supp. 2019) and its use of the language “concurrent jurisdiction.” In the end the Court concluded that while this case had to originate under the juvenile court’s exclusive original jurisdiction as required by § 43-246.01(2), the Legislature also specifically granted to the juvenile court the ability to transfer such cases to the county or district court so long as those courts otherwise have subject matter jurisdiction.  The Court went on to explain how certain juvenile criminal matters are statutorily reserved for the juvenile court’s exclusive jurisdiction from beginning to end; however, depending on the juvenile’s age and the nature of the offense, such matters may be transferred to the county or district court.  The Court’s extensive analysis also included the following Nebraska Supreme Court cases: In re Interest of Tyrone K., 295 Neb. 193, 887 N.W.2d 489 (2016), In re Interest of Sandrino T., 295 Neb. 270, 888 N.W.2d 371 (2016), and In re Interest of Steven S., 299 Neb. 447, 908 N.W.2d 391 (2018.

The statutory language itself, along with the Supreme Court cases mentioned construing the pertinent statutes as discussed above, indicate that § 43-246.01(2) and § 43-274(5) do in fact allow for cases described in § 43-246.01(2) to be transferred to the county or district court once the case is initially filed in the juvenile court.