579 N.E.2d 48 (Ind. 1991), 49S00-9008-JV-576, Matter of Tina T.

Docket Nº49S00-9008-JV-576, 49S00-9001-CV-11.
Citation579 N.E.2d 48
Party NameIn the Matter of TINA T. In the Matter of MICHAEL R. In the Matter of RONNIE P.
Case DateSeptember 30, 1991
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 48

579 N.E.2d 48 (Ind. 1991)

In the Matter of TINA T.

In the Matter of MICHAEL R.

In the Matter of RONNIE P.

Nos. 49S00-9008-JV-576, 49S00-9001-CV-11.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

September 30, 1991

Page 49

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 50

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Gordon E. White, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellant.

Kenneth J. Falk, Sandra D. Leek, Legal Services Organization of Indiana, Inc., I. Marshall Pinkus, Indianapolis, for appellees.

DeBRULER, Justice.

  1. Procedural History

    The gravamen of Chapter 14 of Title 31, Section 6, of the Indiana Code is that before a juvenile ward may be placed by court order in a "restrictive placement," defined generally as a placement other than the child's home or a foster home in the county of the child's residence, an independent body created by the chapter must meet and make a nonbinding recommendation to the court concerning the placement. Under I.C. 31-6-14-6, a local coordinating committee (LCC) is to be established in each county of this State to review restrictive placements 1 of wards which have been proposed by a referring agency. 2 The voting members of the LCC are the director of the county welfare department, the director of the community mental health center serving the child's area of residence, and the superintendent of the school corporation in which the child is legally settled, or the designees of these officials. 3 I.C. 31-6-14-7(a)(1) through (3). Subject to explicit exceptions, none of which is applicable here, 4 the LCC must review every proposed restrictive placement and make its recommendation before the placement may

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    be made or before the referring agency may submit its proposal to the person authorized to make the placement, I.C. 31-6-14-12, which is most often the judge of the juvenile court having jurisdiction over the ward.

    Appellees, three juvenile wards of the Marion County Department of Public Welfare, filed separate petitions in the Marion County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, asking that court for injunctive and declaratory relief and for class certification. The petitions requested that the court declare I.C. 31-6-14-1 et seq. unconstitutional and sought to represent, by way of class action, present and future wards of the Marion County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, or the Marion County Welfare Department who were awaiting restrictive placements pending a Local Coordinating Committee decision and the parents or guardians of those wards. The trial court found that the causes were properly brought as class actions under Ind.Trial Rule 23(B)(2) and certified the following two classes:

    [T]hose individuals who are determined to be delinquent children by a Petition filed under I.C. 31-6-4-1 and I.C. 31-6-2-1 [and those individuals who are determined as Children in Need of Services by a Petition filed under I.C. 31-6-4-3] and are or will be considered for restrictive placement and, therefore, must be referred to the LCC [pursuant to I.C. 31-6-4-1 et seq.].

    The court also found that, as to each class, the challenged statute violates the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and that it constitutes an unauthorized legislative intrusion into the power of the judiciary, thus violative of Article 3, Section 1; Article 7, Section 1; and Article 1, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution. The court further found that the statute was in conflict with the federal Social Security Act. The judgment of the juvenile court in both causes was to declare I.C. 31-6-14-1 et seq. to be void and to enjoin its further enforcement. A direct appeal of each judgment was taken by the State to this Court. 5

  2. Facts

    Appellee Tina T. was born on June 25, 1972, and she became a ward of the Marion County Department of Public Welfare (MCDPW) in 1984. Over the next five years, Tina was in and out of various placements, moving to and from her mother's residence, group homes, and the Indiana Girls' School. Tina was a chronic runaway, and she left her last court-ordered placement in October of 1989. Upon her return, she admitted that she had violated the terms of a suspended commitment to Girls' School, and final disposition on this matter was set for November 28, 1989. From November 13, 1989, to January 16, 1990, while awaiting the LCC's recommendation and final disposition of her case by the court, Tina was housed for sixty-four days at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center. Tina filed her class action suit on January 1, 1990. She was moved to a runaway shelter on January 16, 1990, and ran from there the same day. The LCC met on January 24, 1990, and recommended that Tina be emancipated.

    Appellee Ronnie P. was born on August 29, 1971, and he became a ward of the MCDPW in 1988. After Ronnie ran away from a Marion County group home in August of that year, the MCDPW and his guardian ad litem recommended that he enter a restrictive placement at the Gibalt School for Boys in Vigo County. While waiting for the LCC to meet and make its recommendation to the court, Ronnie was housed for sixty-one days at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center. Ronnie filed his class action suit on October 4, 1988, and the LCC met on that same day

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    and recommended that the Gibalt placement be made.

    Appellee Michael R. was born on April 17, 1973, and he became a ward of the MCDPW in 1984. On September 19, 1988, the MCDPW and Michael's guardian ad litem recommended that Michael enter a restrictive placement at Glen Mills School in Pennsylvania after he was abandoned by his family and a Marion County placement proved unsuccessful. Michael was housed for thirty days at the Marion County Guardian's Home while waiting for the LCC to meet and make its recommendation. Michael filed his class action suit on October 4, 1988. The LCC met on October 12, 1988, and recommended to the trial court that a restrictive placement be made for Michael at either of two named Indiana locations. On October 17 and 19, 1988, the trial court entered final orders placing Michael at the Glen Mills School.

    In all three cases, final disposition was entered prior to the certification of the class.

  3. Mootness

    An appeal or an issue becomes moot when:

    1. it is no longer "live" or when the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome;

    2. the principle questions in issue have ceased to be matters of real controversy between the parties; or,

    3. the court on appeal is unable to render effective relief upon an issue.

    Roark v. Roark (1990), Ind.App., 551 N.E.2d 865, 867. Appellant argues that this case is moot because the LCC met and made its recommendation and the court entered its final disposition in all three cases prior to its consideration of the merits of the constitutional claim, citing State Dept. of Pub. Welfare v. Bair (1984), Ind.App., 463 N.E.2d 1388, for the proposition that courts of this state have no jurisdiction in the absence of a live case or controversy existing between the parties. The appellees respond that this case falls within the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to the mootness doctrine. This exception applies when the named plaintiff in a class action had a personal stake at the outset of the lawsuit, and the claim may arise again with respect to that plaintiff. See United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388, 398, 100 S.Ct. 1202, 1209, 63 L.Ed.2d 479, 491-92 (1980).

    Although the named class representatives here had a personal stake at the outset of the litigation, all three have passed their eighteenth birthdays during the course of these proceedings. They are no longer subject to the provisions of the juvenile code and are beyond the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and therefore no possibility exists that the claim might arise again as to any of them. Therefore, this case does not fall into the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to the mootness doctrine.

    This finding, however, is not determinative of the mootness question. The appellant in Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 95 S.Ct. 553, 42 L.Ed.2d 532 (1975), brought a class action challenging Iowa's durational residency requirement, which was a condition precedent to obtaining a divorce in that state. By the time the case got to the United States Supreme Court, Sosna had long since met the one-year requirement and had, in fact, obtained a divorce in another state. The Supreme Court noted that these events had fully extinguished the constitutional claim as to Sosna and that the possibility that she would again be subject to the challenged provision was highly speculative and found that the case did not fall within the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception.

    The Court, however, declined to dismiss the case as moot, stating, "Although the controversy is no longer alive as to appellant Sosna, it remains very much alive for the class of persons she has been certified to represent." Id. at 401, 95 S.Ct. at 558, 42 L.Ed.2d at 541. The Court described the procedural dilemma and resolved it as follows:

    [E]ven though [the State of Iowa] might not again enforce [its] durational residency requirement against [Sosna], it is clear that [it] will enforce it against

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    those persons in the class that [she] sought to represent and that the District Court certified. In this sense the case before us is one in which state officials will undoubtedly continue to enforce the challenged statute and yet, because of the passage of time, no single challenger will remain subject to its restrictions for the period necessary to see such a lawsuit to its conclusion.... We believe that a case such as this, in which ... the issue sought to be litigated escapes full appellate review at the behest of any single challenger, does not inexorably become moot by the intervening...

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