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Name: In re Albert C.
Case #: S231315
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 07/10/2017
Summary

County juvenile court protocol limiting detention of incompetent minors to 120 days, which was not adopted pursuant to any mechanism vesting it with legal authority, does not presumptively or otherwise define due process. The district attorney filed two petitions to have Albert C. declared a ward of the juvenile court. He was found incompetent and the juvenile court suspended proceedings. While proceedings were suspended Albert was held in juvenile hall for approximately 13 months, despite a Los Angeles County juvenile court protocol limiting the detention of incompetent minors to 120 days. The court later found Albert was malingering and reinstated proceedings. He subsequently admitted two counts pursuant to a plea agreement and was declared a ward. On appeal, he argued his detention beyond 120 days violated due process. The Court of Appeal affirmed, and the Supreme Court granted review. Held: Affirmed. Like adults, juveniles have a due process right to be free from indefinite commitment if found incompetent to stand trial, and the nature and duration of their commitment must bear some reasonable relation to the purpose for which they are committed. While courts are not prohibited from establishing time limits concerning the detention of incompetent minors, the protocol in this case was not adopted as a local rule, was not authorized by any state statute, and was not adopted by the trial court in Albert’s case as an exercise of its inherent authority to control the proceedings. Because it lacks the force of law, a violation of the protocol does not, in and of itself, give rise to a claim for relief. The court disapproved of In re Jesus G. (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 157, on which Albert relied, to the extent its reasoning treats the protocol as a presumptive definition of the substantive scope of due process. The court did not decide whether the length of Albert’s detention violated due process, concluding any violation was not prejudicial in light of the juvenile court’s finding of malingering.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S231315.PDF