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[U] In re T.R.B.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

January 14, 2014

IN THE INTEREST OF: T.R.B., A MINOR
v.
APPEAL OF: T.R.B., A MINOR IN THE INTEREST OF: T.R.B., A MINOR APPEAL OF: T.R.B., A MINOR

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order March 1, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County Juvenile Division at No.: CP-14-JV-0000090-2011, CP-14-JV-0000004-2012.

BEFORE: PANELLA, J., MUNDY, J., and PLATT, J [*]

MEMORANDUM

PLATT, J.

In this consolidated appeal, Appellant, T.R.B., appeals from the decree of March 1, 2013, revoking his probation. After careful review, we affirm.

The Juvenile court set forth the salient facts of this case as follows:

On February 21, 2013, a 72 hour hearing was held. At the hearing, [Appellant] admitted to the probation violations involving smoking synthetic marijuana. He wished to be returned home on electronic monitoring. The Commonwealth was concerned that [Appellant] had not been attending school and was home alone on days his mother worked. Further, he had smoked marijuana previously while on electronic monitoring. The Commonwealth requested placement in a detention center for up to 20 days during which time an assessment would be prepared. The Juvenile Court entered an Order on February 21, 2013 finding probable cause that [Appellant] violated his probation and returning him to Central Counties Youth Center for up to 20 days during which time he was required to submit to all physical, medical, dental and/or psychological evaluations deemed appropriate by the Centre County . . . [j]uvenile [p]robation [d]epartment. A [d]isposition [h]earing was to be held in 20 days.
On March 1, 2013[, ] a [d]isposition hearing was held. At such time, the juvenile probation department and the Commonwealth recommended that [Appellant] be placed in Northwestern Academy's Renew Program until he successfully complete[d] the program. . . .

(Juvenile Court Opinion, 6/14/13, at 1-2 (record citations omitted); see also Order, 3/01/13). Appellant timely appealed.[1]

Appellant raises one question for our review: "Was it manifest abuse of discretion by the juvenile court when [Appellant] was not afforded or allowed to have a proper Dispositional Hearing after revocation of his probation?" (Appellant's Brief, at 4). Appellant argues that he did not receive a proper dispositional hearing in accordance with our holding in In re Love, 646 A.2d 1233 (Pa.Super. 1994), appeal denied, 655 A.2d 511 (Pa. 1995), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1126 (1995), because "the juvenile court precluded [Appellant] from presenting complete testimony of the only witness who had an opportunity to get on the witness stand; and did not allow testimony by other witnesses who were present." (Id. at 10 (record citation omitted)). He further asserts that he is entitled to another dispositional hearing because he "vehemently objected to the recommended placement" and "was not afforded full opportunity to advance his argument in support of his opposition to the placement; or offer alternative solutions for his own problems." (Id. at 12). We disagree. Our standard of review is well-settled:

The Juvenile Act grants broad discretion to the court in disposition. This Court will not disturb a disposition absent a manifest abuse of discretion. The purpose of the Juvenile Act is as follows:
Consistent with the protection of the public interest, to provide for children committing delinquent acts programs of supervision, care and rehabilitation which provide balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community.
42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6301(b)(2). This section evidences the Legislature's clear intent to protect the community while rehabilitating and reforming juvenile delinquents.

In the Interest of D.S., 37 A.3d 1202, 1203 (Pa.Super. 2011), appeal denied, 42 A.3d 293 (Pa. 2012) (some citations omitted). Although juvenile court proceedings are "conducted on a comparatively informal basis, " In re Holmes, 103 A.2d 454, 459 (Pa.Super. 1954) (citation omitted), our Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure provide the following guidance:

Rule 512. Dispositional Hearing

A. Manner of hearing. The court shall conduct the dispositional hearing in an informal but orderly manner.
(1) Evidence. The court shall receive any oral or written evidence from both parties and the juvenile probation officer that is helpful in determining disposition, including evidence that was not admissible at the adjudicatory hearing.
(2) Opportunity to be heard. Before deciding disposition, the court shall give the juvenile and the victim an opportunity to be heard.

Pa.R.J.C.P. 512(A)(1)-(2).

In a juvenile proceeding, the hearing judge sits as the finder of fact. In a case . . . where the credibility of witnesses is at issue, the weight to be assigned the testimony of the witnesses is within the exclusive province of the fact-finder. The hearing judge, as sole assessor of credibility, may believe all, part or none of the evidence presented. The hearing judge's findings will not be reversed by this Court unless it appears that he has clearly abused his discretion or committed an error of law.

In re Love, supra at 1237 (citations omitted).

Here, a review of the hearing testimony indicates that Appellant called his mother to the stand to address the type of program she believed would be successful in rehabilitating him. (See N.T. Dispositional Hearing, 3/01/13, at 5-7). The Commonwealth objected to her testimony on the grounds that the questions were leading and that the time frame about which she was being questioned was unclear. (Id. at 7). The Juvenile court agreed, finding that her testimony was "not helpful, " (id.), and observed:

[S]omething's going on in [Appellant's] life that is not being addressed by the other people in this courtroom that's going to affect him unless he pays attention. And this program is a fantastic program. The fact that we have this available to us is absolutely wonderful because this is the case where it's going to be most valuable. So you can give me assurances that he's going to have round-the-clock coverage, but that's not going to do it. You got anything else you want to tell me?
THE WITNESS: No, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. You may step down. (Id. at 8). Appellant did not object. (See id.).

Likewise, the Juvenile court engaged Appellant directly in a colloquy regarding its disposition, and Appellant stated:

[Appellant]: Your Honor, I feel that I don't think this program is really going to help me in my recovery. Most of the reason that I have been getting in trouble in school is because I haven't been taking my medicine. And I've talked to the gym teacher and she's told me what I need to do and I'm capable of doing that. And from starting to take my medicine again, I've been doing pretty well, I think, since then.
THE COURT: You told me when you first started talking that you don't think this program is going to help you. What do you base that on? Do you know anything about this program?
[Appellant]: No, sir.
THE COURT: Right.
[Appellant]: But Your Honor, I feel that I don't have a real bad drug problem and I can change.
THE COURT: Why have you waited until now?
[Appellant]: Your Honor, it's just my peers that I have been associating with in school and out of school are not, as you want to say, very positive.
THE COURT: These are the same people you've been hanging out with for a long time, why didn't you stop hanging out with them before? Did you ever hear that saying, when you point your finger at somebody, there's always three fingers pointing back?
[Appellant]: Yes.
THE COURT: I'm going to send you to this program. . . .
So I'm going to send you there and I want you to keep an open mind and I want you to work really, really hard. And you're going to come back here, I'm not sure when, but very soon, and my prediction is that I'm going to see a different young man in front of me. I'm going to see the same smart kid that I see in front of me, but I think that you're going to be a lot different in many ways. Okay?
[Appellant]: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. I'm going to sign the prepared Order. I wish you the very best. I'm pulling for you. Do you understand that?
[Appellant]: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. Good luck. (Id. at 9-11). Appellant did not object, nor did he file any post-dispositional motions upon revocation of his probation.

Appellant argues that, pursuant to In re Love, supra, the Juvenile court deprived him of due process because it did not "specifically provide [him] with an opportunity to provide testimony if he disagreed with the placement facility selected." (Appellant's Brief, at 10; see id. at 10-11). However, this claim is inapposite, because the due process claim in Love involved the use of allegedly unreliable out-of-court identifications, a claim which that Court found unmeritorious. See In re Love, supra at 1236-37. Here, Appellant raises no such claims about the evidence supporting the revocation of his probation and, in fact, admitted to the violation of the terms of his probation. (See Juvenile Ct. Op., at 1-2).

Furthermore, the observation from Love on which Appellant relies was not a mandate regarding the due process claim, but simply an observation by the court regarding the lack of merit of another waived claim. (See Appellant's Brief, at 10); see also In re Love, supra at 1238. Here, a review of the testimony indicates that the Juvenile court did, in fact, engage with Appellant and give him an opportunity to provide testimony regarding what he believed to be an appropriate alternative disposition. See Pa.R.J.C.P. 512(A)(2) (requiring that juvenile be given an opportunity to be heard); (see also N.T. Dispositional Hearing, 3/01/13, at 9-11). Appellant's allegations that he "vehemently objected to the recommended placement" and "was not afforded full opportunity to advance his argument in support of his opposition to the placement; or offer alternative solutions for his own problems" are not supported by the record. (See Appellant's Brief, at 12). The Juvenile court's disposition was not an abuse of discretion. See In the Interest of D.S., supra at 1203; In re Love, supra at 1237. Appellant's issue does not merit relief.

Disposition affirmed.

Judgment Entered.

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