Juvenile court’s order declaring minor a ward of the court reversed where assessment and report prepared pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 241.1 was untimely and inadequate. In July 2013, the juvenile court declared the minor a dependent of the court. In October 2016, while the minor remained a dependent, a delinquency petition was filed (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602) alleging the minor had committed misdemeanor battery (Pen. Code, § 242). The juvenile court denied the minor’s request to refer the matter for an assessment and report (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 241.1), and the minor admitted the battery. The court declared the minor a ward, placed her on formal probation, and set the matter for further hearing after the assessment report was received. When the report was completed, the court again declared the minor a ward. On appeal, the minor argued the juvenile court erred by failing to refer the matter for an assessment report before taking jurisdiction. Held: Reversed. In cases where a minor qualifies as both a dependent and a ward of the juvenile court, there is a procedure the juvenile court must follow to determine under which framework the case should proceed. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 241.1.) The county probation department and the child welfare services jointly assess the case and make a recommendation that will serve the best interests of the minor and protect society (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 241.1, subd. (e)(5)(A)). The report must assess specified factors in writing. “Here, if at all possible, the People should have arranged for a section 241.1 assessment report prior to filing the juvenile wardship petition.” Moreover, even if the report is not completed prior to the filing of a wardship petition, the hearing on the assessment must be conducted prior to the jurisdictional hearing and within 30 days of the filing of the petition. The minor was deprived of her statutory and due process rights to a timely section 241.1 assessment report, hearing, and determination prior to the jurisdictional hearing. The report was also inadequate and the errors were not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
The section 241.1 assessment report was statutorily inadequate. The assessment report failed to contain the required statement by counsel currently representing the minor, statement by a court appointed special advocate (CASA), the minor’s education records, or any substantive information regarding the dependency proceedings. The report lacked sufficient information for the juvenile court to have made an informed decision regarding what course will best serve the minor’s interest and protect society.
The minor did not forfeit the issue regarding the adequacy of the section 241.1 report by failing to object on that basis in the trial court. The People argued the minor’s failure to object to the adequacy of the report forfeited that issue on appeal. However, any objection to the timeliness, adequacy, or recommendation in the report would have been futile because the juvenile court had already ruled on the issue presented in the report, i.e., the court had already decided the minor would be treated as dual status. The objection was not forfeited.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E067486.PDF