144 F.3d 798 (D.C. Cir. 1998), 96-7239, Hutchins by Owens v. District of Columbia

Docket Nº:96-7239.
Citation:144 F.3d 798
Party Name:Tiana HUTCHINS, a minor, by Julia C. OWENS, her grandmother, et al., Appellees, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellant.
Case Date:May 22, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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144 F.3d 798 (D.C. Cir. 1998)

Tiana HUTCHINS, a minor, by Julia C. OWENS, her grandmother,

et al., Appellees,



No. 96-7239.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

May 22, 1998

Argued Sept. 8, 1997.

Tatel, Circuit Judge, filed opinion concurring in the judgment.

Silberman, Circuit Judge, filed dissention opinion.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 95cv02050).

Steven J. Rosenbaum argued the cause for appellant, with whom Jo Anne Robinson, Interim Corporation Counsel, Charles L. Reischel, Deputy Corporation Counsel, Donna M. Murasky, Assistant Corporation Counsel, and Jason A. Levine were on the briefs.

Robert S. Plotkin argued the cause for appellees, with whom Jay A. Morrison, Patricia L. Hurst, and Arthur B. Spitzer were on the brief.

Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney at the time the brief was filed, R. Craig Lawrence and Kimberly N. Tarver, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, were on the brief for the United States of America as amicus curiae.

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[330 U.S.App.D.C. 156] Before: SILBERMAN, ROGERS and TATEL, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge ROGERS.

Opinion concurring in the judgment filed by Circuit Judge TATEL.

Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge SILBERMAN.

ROGERS, Circuit Judge:

Confronted with evidence of increasing juvenile violence and victimization in the District of Columbia, and informed about the success of other cities in reducing such problems through the enforcement of juvenile curfews, the Council of the District of Columbia enacted the Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995. The Council modeled the Act on a Dallas, Texas, ordinance that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had held was constitutional. See Qutb v. Strauss, 11 F.3d 488, 496 (5th Cir.1993). The main provision of the D.C. Act bars unmarried and unemancipated persons 1 under seventeen years old from being in public unaccompanied by a parent or equivalent adult supervisor from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights or from 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, with certain enumerated "defenses." See D.C.CODE §§ 6- 2182(1), -2183(a)(1), (b)(1) (Supp.1997). Thirteen months after the Act took effect, the district court enjoined its enforcement, ruling in light of evidentiary deficiencies that the Act violated the minor appellees' equal protection and due process rights and violated the appellee parents' right to due process. See Hutchins v. District of Columbia, 942 F.Supp. 665, 668 (D.D.C.1996). The District of Columbia, joined by the United States as amicus, appeals the grant of summary judgment to appellees. We affirm, albeit with different analyses. While the court is unanimous that the case is not moot, see infra Part II, we apply different tests to evaluate the constitutionality of the Act. I apply an intermediate scrutiny test in light of competing individual and governmental interests, while Judge Tatel applies strict scrutiny and Judge Silberman applies a rational basis test. Judge Tatel and I agree that the Act fails to survive under intermediate or strict scrutiny review; Judge Silberman dissents, concluding that the Act survives rational basis review.


Appellees, nine persons under the age of seventeen at the time 2 and four parents, all residents of the District of Columbia ("the District"), and a movie theater corporation sued the District to enjoin enforcement of the Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 ("the Act"). They sought a declaration that the Act violates rights guaranteed by the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution and exceeds the police powers of the District of Columbia. Their principal allegations were that the Act violates the minors' Fifth Amendment equal protection and due process rights by impinging upon their fundamental right to free movement; the Act violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and association and is both overbroad and unconstitutionally vague; and the Act violates their Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures in that it allows the

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[330 U.S.App.D.C. 157] police to stop minors and take them into custody based only on a reasonable belief that the Act has been violated. In addition, appellees alleged that the Act violates the parents' Fifth Amendment due process rights because, by removing parents' discretion to allow children to be in public places during curfew hours unaccompanied by a person at least twenty-one years old, the Act impinges upon parents' fundamental right to autonomy in raising children. Finally, appellees alleged that the Act exceeds the District's police powers by criminalizing minors' participation in legitimate educational, cultural, vocational, athletic, social, and family-related activities during curfew hours. Appellees argued that, because the Act infringes on both the minors' and parents' fundamental rights, it is subject to strict scrutiny review, which, they asserted, it fails to satisfy.

Upon considering the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, the district court granted judgment for appellees and enjoined enforcement of the Act. See Hutchins, 942 F.Supp. at 684. The court agreed that minors have a fundamental right to free movement, reasoning from the Supreme Court's acknowledgments that minors have constitutional rights and that adults have a fundamental right to free movement to the conclusion that, in the context of a curfew law, there is no reason to treat minors' right to free movement differently from that of adults. See id. at 670-74. Then, concluding that the Act infringes minors' fundamental right to free movement as well as parents' fundamental right to direct their children's upbringing, the court applied a strict scrutiny test and found that while the District had demonstrated a compelling need for the curfew, it had failed to demonstrate that the Act is narrowly tailored to serve that need. See id. at 674-80. Based on deficiencies in the District's evidentiary justification for a nexus between the curfew and a future reduction in juvenile victimization and crime, the court concluded that the Act affects too many minors engaged in legitimate activities. See id. at 680. The court further ruled that four of the Act's curfew "defenses" are unconstitutionally vague, see id. at 679, but did not reach the minor appellees' First and Fourth Amendment challenges, see id. at 680 n. 19. Because the Act also affects parents exercising appropriate supervision of their children, the court ruled that the Act infringes upon parents' fundamental rights in violation of the Fifth Amendment. See id. at 680.

On appeal, the District of Columbia contends that the Act is constitutional, curtailing only limited late night activities of unsupervised minors and thereby interposing only a minor interference with parental autonomy. The District maintains, first, that the district court erred in applying a strict scrutiny standard in the face of authority rejecting any fundamental right of minors to wander unsupervised at night, Supreme Court precedent regarding more general limitations on minors' rights and parental autonomy, and the Supreme Court's stringent guidelines for the identification of new fundamental rights. Alternatively, the District maintains that even if strict scrutiny is the proper standard, the Act still should be upheld: the district court's finding that the District has a compelling interest in preventing juvenile crime and protecting juveniles against victimization is supported by abundant evidence and the Act is narrowly tailored to that interest, as demonstrated by evidence that the district court rejected. Finally, the District maintains that the Act does not violate appellees' First or Fourth Amendment rights, and that the district court erred in ruling that four of the curfew exceptions in the Act are unconstitutionally vague without offering either an explanation or a saving construction as required by Supreme Court precedent.

The constitutionality of a juvenile curfew statute is a question of first impression in this court, and our review is de novo. 3 See Wilson v. Pena, 79 F.3d 154, 160 & n. 1 (D.C.Cir.1996); Propert v. District of Columbia, 948 F.2d 1327, 1331 (D.C.Cir.1991).

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[330 U.S.App.D.C. 158] The Act establishes a curfew from 11:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. the next day for Sunday night through Thursday night, and between 12:01 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and daily throughout July and August. See D.C.CODE § 6-2182(1) (reprinted in the Appendix to this opinion). The curfew applies only to "minors," who are defined as persons under age seventeen who are neither emancipated nor married. See id.s 6-2182(5). During curfew hours, a minor may not be "in any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the District of Columbia" without appropriate adult supervision. Id. § 6-2183(a)(1), (b)(1)(A). An "adult" is defined as a parent or any person twenty-one years or older whom the minor's parent has authorized to be a caretaker. See id. §§ 6-2182(8). The Act also provides that a person under age eighteen shall not operate a motor vehicle in the District after midnight, except when authorized under the Act. See id. § 40-301(g) (Supp. 1997). A police officer who "reasonably believes" that a curfew violation has occurred may inquire of the minor about the minor's age and reasons for being in public and, upon determining that the minor is violating the curfew, may hold the minor in custody until the minor's parent arrives or 6:00 a.m. the following morning, whichever occurs first. Id. § 6-2183(c).

A minor who violates the Act can be required by a court to perform up to twenty-five hours of community service for each violation. See id. § 6-2183(d)(4). Violation of the...

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