Frank C., Matter of

Citation522 N.Y.S.2d 89,516 N.E.2d 1203,70 N.Y.2d 408
Parties, 516 N.E.2d 1203 In the Matter of FRANK C., a Person Alleged to be a Juvenile Delinquent, Respondent. Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, Appellant.
Decision Date13 October 1987
CourtNew York Court of Appeals

TITONE, Judge.

In this juvenile delinquency proceeding under article 3 of the Family Court Act, we are asked to consider whether dismissal of the presentment agency's petition is mandatory when the statutorily required fact-finding hearing is delayed beyond the time limits delineated in Family Court Act § 340.1 through no fault or dilatory conduct attributable to the presentment agency. Guided by the legislative goal of assuring speedy adjudications for juveniles, we hold that the source of delay is not controlling and that dismissal is required whenever the statutory requirements for commencing a fact-finding hearing are not satisfied.

On June 11, 1984, following respondent's May 29th arrest in the lobby of the New York County Family Court building, a petition charging him with criminal possession of a controlled substance was filed. Respondent made his initial court appearance on the day the petition was filed and was thereafter released pending a hearing on the charges. On July 11, 1984, respondent's counsel made an omnibus motion, returnable on July 20, seeking discovery, a suppression hearing and a change of venue. Although the presentment agency responded to the motion and answered "ready for trial" on July 18, 1987, only 37 days after the petition was filed, a variety of circumstances, none of them chargeable to the agency, delayed the commencement of the fact-finding hearing.

Since the court could not immediately decide respondent's motion, the case was adjourned, first to September 25 and then to November 28, 1984. The court decided the motion and granted the request for a suppression hearing in October, but the hearing did not go forward on the November adjourn date because the court was then involved in another trial. The case was marked "ready and passed" and adjourned, at respondent's counsel's request, to January 9, 1985. On that date, the need to replace the newly assigned Judge led to some confusion, requiring another adjournment of six days. Before that six-day adjournment expired, respondent's counsel made a motion to dismiss on the ground that respondent's right to a speedy trial under Family Court Act § 340.1 had been violated.

Noting that 217 days had elapsed since the date of respondent's initial appearance, the court granted respondent's motion. The court reasoned that "[t]o deny relief in the face of so extended a lapse would render the right to a speedy trial under the Family Court Act wholly illusory, if not meaningless." In addition, the court specifically rejected the presentment agency's argument that, by analogy to the detailed time limitations governing adult criminal proceedings (CPL 30.30), dismissal is unwarranted where the presentment agency was at all times ready to proceed and the delays were occasioned by circumstances outside of the agency's control. The Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed, without opinion, 121 A.D.2d 851, 503 N.Y.S.2d 470, the Family Court's order of dismissal, and we granted the presentment agency leave to appeal to our court. We now affirm.

Section 310.2 of the Family Court Act, which is analogous to the general speedy trial provision applicable to adult prosecutions (CPL 30.20), provides that "[a]fter a petition [charging delinquency] has been filed, the respondent is entitled to a speedy fact-finding hearing." In addition, the Legislature has established, in an entirely separate statute, specific time limitations to govern fact-finding hearings (Family Ct. Act § 340.1). Under section 340.1, "[i]f the respondent is not in detention the fact-finding hearing shall commence not more than sixty days after the conclusion of the initial appearance", but the case may be adjourned for "not more than thirty days" on motion of the court or the parties for "good cause shown" (Family Ct. Act § 340.1[2], [3][a], [b] ). The court is required to "state on the record the reason for any adjournment of the fact-finding hearing" (Family Ct. Act § 340.1[4] ), and successive motions to adjourn are not permitted "in the absence of a showing, on the record, of special circumstances" (§ 340.1[4], [5] ). Significantly, "calendar congestion" and "the status of the court's docket or backlog" are expressly excluded as potential "special circumstances" warranting successive adjournments (§ 340.1[5] ).

In this case, there is no contention that there were "special circumstances" or even "good cause" for the successive adjournments that delayed respondent's fact-finding hearing for some 218 days after the initial appearance on the presentment agency's petition. Indeed, the adjournments to September 25 and November 28, which together delayed the proceedings for more than three months, were to enable the court to decide what appears to have been a routine omnibus/venue motion. The subsequent adjournment, which added another 42 days to the total delay, was the combin product of the court's own docket problems and respondent's counsel's scheduling difficulties. Thus, it is clear both that the delays were not permissible under the statute and that the presentment agency was not at fault. The only remaining question is whether dismissal of the presentment agency's petition was an appropriate remedy in light of the absence of any procrastination on the part of that agency.

The presentment agency argues on this appeal that it should not be penalized by dismissal of the petition--a sanction not expressly provided for in Family Court Act § 340.1--since it was not responsible for the delays. More specifically, the agency argues that the principles set forth in CPL 30.30, which governs adult criminal proceedings and focuses only on prosecutorial delays, should be utilized in interpreting and applying Family Court Act § 340.1, since the two provisions are analogous and reference to CPL 30.30 is, in fact, necessary to establish the respondent's entitlement to dismissal. In support of its position, the agency cites Family Court Act § 303.1, which precludes use of the Criminal Procedure Law provisions in juvenile delinquency proceedings but recognizes that "[a] court may * * * consider judicial interpretations of appropriate provisions of the criminal procedure law to the extent that such interpretations may assist the court in interpreting similar provisions of this article."

Contrary to the presentment agency's argument, however, there is no genuine analogy to be drawn between Family Court Act § 340.1 and CPL 30.30. The two statutes superficially resemble each other in that both contain extremely specific time limitations and both were enacted to supplement more general statutory provisions requiring a "speedy" trial or hearing (CPL 30.20; Family Ct. Act § 310.2; see, Sobie, Practice Commentary, McKinney's Cons, Laws of N.Y., Book 29A, Family Ct. Act § 310.2, at 330-331). But the very different language, history and purposes of the two statutes make further analogy between them inappropriate.

The history and underlying purpose of CPL 30.30 are well known. The Legislature enacted the statute in response to a widespread concern that the speedy trial rules adopted by the then-existing Administrative Board were too stringent and would lead to wholesale dismissals (see, People v. Worley, 66 N.Y.2d 523, 527, 498 N.Y.S.2d 116, 488 N.E.2d 1228; see also,OA} Bellacosa, Practice Commentary, McKinney's Cons. Laws of N.Y., Book 11A, CPL 30.30, at 148-149). Because of this concern, the Legislature adopted a less draconian measure aimed principally at prosecutorial delays rather than at the larger problem of bringing criminal defendan swiftly to trial (see, People v. Sinistaj, 67 N.Y.2d 236, 239, 501 N.Y.S.2d 793, 492 N.E.2d 1209; People v. Anderson, 66 N.Y.2d 529, 535, 498 N.Y.S.2d 119, 488 N.E.2d 1231; People v. Worley, supra, 66 N.Y.2d at 527, 498 N.Y.S.2d 116, 488 N.E.2d 1228; People...

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