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Name: In re Christopher F.
Case #: B220546
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 04/18/2011
Subsequent History: opn. mod. on 5/3/2011
Summary

In a Welfare & Institutions 602 delinquency proceeding, although a minor has a due process right to a competency hearing, Penal Code section 1369 does not apply. A Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition was filed alleging that Christopher F. had threatened his high school dean pursuant to Penal Code section 422. Prior to trial, minor’s counsel expressed a doubt as to the minor’s competence and the court suspended proceedings and appointed a mental health expert from the University of Southern California Institute of Psychiatry, Dr. Rowan, to evaluate the minor. At the subsequent competency hearing, Dr. Rowan opined that because of minor’s language limitations, minor could not adequately assist his attorney and, therefore, was not competent to proceed in legal matters. The court disagreed, finding the evaluation was not complete because Dr. Rowan had failed to take into consideration minor’s passing grades. Proceedings were reinstated and the allegation of the petition was found true. On appeal, minor contended that the juvenile court erred by not appointing the regional center director to complete the evaluation, pursuant to Pen. Code section 1369. The appellate court found no error. Section 1369 applies only to adult criminal proceedings, whereas juvenile matters are governed by general concepts of due process and Rule of Court, rule 5.645(d). Rule 5.645(d) provides only that the court may appoint an expert to evaluate a minor for competency and, although the regional center director can be appointed as the expert, it is not required. Here, Dr. Rowan was skilled in the diagnosis of developmental disabilities, having previously been employed as a psychologist at the regional center, and having testified as an expert in developmental disabilities in prior cases. With the appointment of Dr. Rowan, the minor’s due process rights were protected. Further, substantial evidence supported the court’s finding of competence. The court did not resolve the question as to whether the prosecution had the burden of proving minor’s competence. Regardless who had the burden, the trial court’s consideration of the minor’s grades, as well as other factors in finding him competent, was sufficient to support the court’s finding.