In re J.G., 022519 CASC, S240397

Docket Nº:S240397
Opinion Judge:CHIN, J.
Party Name:In re J.G., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. J.G., Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:William C. Whaley, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant. Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Eric L. Christoffersen, Rachelle A. Newcomb and Brook...
Judge Panel:We Concur: CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J., CORRIGAN, J., LIU, J., CUÉLLAR, J., KRUGER, J., McKINSTER, J.
Case Date:February 25, 2019
Court:Supreme Court of California
 
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In re J.G., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

J.G., Defendant and Appellant.

S240397

Supreme Court of California

February 25, 2019

Shasta County Superior Court JDSQ122933901 Third Appellate District C077056 Monique D. McKee Judge

William C. Whaley, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Eric L. Christoffersen, Rachelle A. Newcomb and Brook A. Bennigson, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

CHIN, J.

Under California's deferred entry of judgment procedure, an eligible minor, after admitting the charges in a petition alleging a violation of law and successfully completing probation, may have the charges dismissed and the juvenile court records sealed. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 790.)1 A minor granted deferred entry of judgment “may... be required to pay restitution to the victim or victims pursuant to the provisions of” the Welfare and Institutions Code. (§ 794.) In this case, the juvenile court granted deferred entry of judgment to J.G., who was charged by petition with trespassing and vandalism, on condition that he pay restitution in the total amount of $36, 381, at the rate of $25 per month. It later found that J.G. had successfully completed all terms of his probation other than the restitution requirement, dismissed the petition, and ordered that the restitution award may be enforced as a civil judgment. On appeal, J.G. challenged the restitution order, arguing that the juvenile court erred by: (1) converting the unpaid restitution to a civil judgment; (2) considering, in determining his ability to pay restitution, the benefits he received from the federal Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI); (3) finding, based on his receipt of SSI benefits, that he had the ability to pay restitution; and (4) imposing an amount that exceeded the $20, 000 per-tort-cap set forth in section 742.16, subdivision (n). The Court of Appeal rejected these arguments and affirmed the juvenile court's judgment. For reasons explained below, we likewise reject J.G.'s first and second arguments. However, based on concessions by the People with respect to the third argument, we remand the matter for a new hearing regarding J.G.'s ability to pay restitution. In light of this disposition, we do not address J.G.'s fourth argument.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On June 6, 2012, the Shasta County District Attorney filed a petition under section 602 alleging that J.G. was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court because he had committed the following offenses: (1) vandalism (Pen. Code, § 594, subd. (b)(2)); (2) throwing an object at a vehicle (Veh. Code, § 23110, subd. (b)); (3) trespass and damage or removal of highway signs (Pen. Code, § 602, subd. (f)); and (4) trespass by entering and occupying property (Pen. Code, § 602, subd. (m)). In support of these charges, the petition alleged that J.G. had entered and occupied real property and a structure at Shasta State Historic Park and had defaced, damaged, and destroyed signs, brick walls, wood railings, skylights, and a roof at the park. Accompanying the petition was a filing indicating that J.G. was eligible for deferred entry of judgment. Several months later, the probation department recommended that the court grant deferred entry of judgment subject to several conditions, including J.G.'s payment of restitution in the amount of $30, 156.

The court and the parties reached an agreement as to the matter's resolution, which was implemented at a hearing in January 2013. Pursuant to the agreement, J.G. admitted the allegations of an amended petition containing only the first and fourth counts of the original petition: vandalism and trespassing. After reviewing the probation department's proposed terms and conditions, J.G. acknowledged on the record that he had read and understood them and he agreed to follow them. The court then granted deferred entry of judgment and imposed the proposed conditions. However, consistent with the statement of J.G.'s counsel at the beginning of the hearing that J.G. would not waive “a hearing, pursuant to [section] 742.16, on the ability to pay” restitution, the court stated that restitution would “be determined” and that the restitution order would be “held in abeyance until [section] 790 has ended, ” at which time the court would “make the appropriate findings.” The written conditions, with the court's handwritten revisions, direct that J.G. “pay restitution to the California State Park in the amount to be determined, ” and state that the restitution order (1) is “to remain in effect until paid in full pursuant to... [sections] 730.6/730.7, ” (2) is “not discharged upon termination of probation or deferred entry of judgment, ” and (3) is “held in abeyance until [section] 790 has ended at which time the court will make the appropriate findings.”

About nine months later, J.G. submitted a written request for “a bifurcated hearing” on the restitution issue, asserting that section 742.16 required the court to consider his ability to pay in determining restitution. He requested that the court first determine whether he had the ability to pay restitution, and that it later hold “a full restitution hearing” to consider the amount of restitution only upon finding he “has the ability to pay.” The People responded in writing that they had “no objection to the minor's request for a bifurcated hearing.” Consistent with J.G.'s request, the court held a hearing in December 2013 solely to determine J.G.'s ability to pay restitution. There was testimony at that hearing that J.G. received a monthly SSI payment in excess of $700 because of disability. At the end of the hearing, the court did not make a finding on ability to pay, but instead requested briefing on whether J.G.'s “SSI disability” benefits could “be used for restitution purposes.”

The matter again came on for hearing on January 29, 2014. At the beginning of the hearing, the court announced its finding that J.G. had the ability to pay restitution, explaining: “[J.G.] receives... approximately 750 dollars a month. It's between 733 and 766, depending on the testimony and records. He receives from SSI for his [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)] and this sum is received monthly. [¶] After hearing the testimony, it revealed that the money was not provided with any restrictions on how it was to be spent. There is no requirement that he spend this money as the result of his ADHD for educational purposes, for treatment, whether it be psychological or medical, no requirement that he take any medications. And as a matter of fact, there is no requirement that this money be spent at all to alleviate the problems that he suffers from, from his ADHD. In fact, the testimony was that the money was spent by the parents for general household expenses. Some of it [is] spent on him, but basically whatever was necessary, it was spent on. And after having read and considered the briefs and arguments, I find that he does have the ability to pay.”

J.G.'s counsel asked to “be heard” regarding the ruling, but the court denied the request and announced, “Now, we need to set a restitution hearing.” J.G.'s counsel responded that she wanted to challenge the court's ruling on J.G.'s ability to pay through “an immediate writ” because she believed that federal law precluded using SSI payments to pay restitution. She then explained, “What I would like to do is provisionally agree to whatever amount, reserving the right to have a restitution hearing.” She later added: “What I would like to do is get some kind of provisional agreement. Obviously, we're not going to agree to the whole amount but because of the urgency of the situation now, it's more important at this point I think that we get this to [an appellate court] so that a decision can be made as to what [J.G.'s] mother as the payee [of the SSI money] is supposed to do.” The court then discussed the repair estimate with the prosecution, commenting that the amount requested - in excess of $30, 000 - seemed “enormous” and “somewhat excessive.” Ultimately, the court announced it would set “an ability to pay amount today” with “restitution reserved.” J.G.'s counsel stated that the court's proposal was acceptable “[a]s long as we're reserving our right to a hearing.” The court responded, “Oh, yes. I wouldn't do otherwise.” It then stated, “I'm going to set the amount of restitution at this time in the amount of 25 dollars a month. That can change based on ability to pay.” The clerk interjected that the court needed to make a finding regarding the total amount “that is ordered to be paid back.” J.G...

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