Ricky H., In re

Decision Date30 April 1970
Docket NumberCr. 14091
Citation2 Cal.3d 513,86 Cal.Rptr. 76,468 P.2d 204
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 468 P.2d 204 In re Ricky H., a Minor, on Habeas Corpus. *

Stephen Manley, San Jose and Brian Paddock, Gelroy, for petitioner.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Edsel W. Haws and Edward A. Hinz, Jr., Deputy Attys. Gen., for respondent.

BURKE, Justice.

Petitioner is a 17-year-old juvenile committed to the custody of the California Youth Authority and presently detained at the O. H. Close School for Boys, having participated in a burglary. 1 Prior to and during the proceedings in juvenile court which led to his commitment, petitioner was correctly advised that he had the right to be represented by counsel at all stages of the proceedings, and that if he could not afford to retain his own counsel, or if his parents failed to provide counsel for him, the court would appoint counsel to represent him. 2 However, petitioner was also advised that since his father was employed, the county would be entitled to reimbursement from him for the cost of appointed counsel. 3

Petitioner, whose father was already indebted to the county for the cost of petitioner's prior detentions, 4 elected to waive his right to appointed counsel rather than cause his father to incur additional obligations to the county. 5 Consequently, at the hearing on the petition to declare petitioner a ward of the court, petitioner formally waived counsel, admitted the truth of the petition's allegations, and was thereupon committed to the custody of the Youth Authority in accordance with the recommendations of the probation department.

Petitioner now challenges the validity of section 903.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, which makes parents and other responsible relatives liable to the county for the cost of legal services rendered to the minor in juvenile court proceedings. We have concluded that section 903.1 must be upheld as reasonably necessary and proper to carry out the goals which underlie the juvenile court program. However, we have also concluded that petitioner should not have been permitted to waive counsel to avoid the operation of section 903.1, as a purported waiver made by a minor under such circumstances is neither voluntary nor intelligent, and is therefore ineffective.

Petitioner first contends that section 903.1 unreasonably and arbitrarily discriminates against the parents of indigent juveniles, thereby denying petitioner and his parents equal protection of the law. (U.S. Const., 14th Amend., § 1; Cal.Const., art. I, §§ 11, 21.) Petitioner relies on Department of Mental Hygiene v. Hawley, 59 Cal.2d 247, 28 Cal.Rptr. 718, 379 P.2d 22, and Dept. of Mental Hygiene v. Kirchner, 60 Cal.2d 716, 36 Cal.Rptr. 488, 388 P.2d 720, remanded 380 U.S. 194, 85 S.Ct. 871, 13 L.Ed.2d 753, subsequent opinion 62 Cal.2d 586, 43 Cal.Rptr. 329, 400 P.2d 321, which invalidated certain 'responsible relatives' legislation on similar grounds.

In considering petitioner's challenge we must keep in mind that section 903.1 was enacted subsequent to our decisions in Hawley and Kirchner. Consequently, 'Such deliberate acts of the Legislature come before us clothed with a presumption of constitutionality. 'All presumptions and intendments favor the validity of a statute and mere doubt does not afford sufficient reason for a judicial declaration of invalidity. Statutes must be upheld unless their unconstitutionality clearly, positively and unmistakably appears. (Citations).'' (In re Dennis M., 70 Cal.2d 444, 453, 75 Cal.Rptr. 1, 6, 450 P.2d 296, 301; see Whittaker v. Superior Court, 68 Cal.2d 357, 367--368, 66 Cal.Rptr. 710, 438 P.2d 358; County of Alameda v. Espinoza, 243 Cal.App.2d 534, 540, 52 Cal.Rptr. 480.)

This court invalidated the legislation involved in the Hawley and Kirchner cases primarily because of our conviction that the state, rather than any arbitrarily selected group of private citizens, should bear the cost of such state functions as supporting persons committed to state institutions for the benefit and protection of the general public. As stated in Kirchner, 'Whether the commitment is incidental to an alleged violation of a penal statute, as in Hawley, or is essentially a civil commitment as in the instant case, the purposes of confinement and treatment or care in either case encompass the protection of society from the confined person, and his own protection and possible reclamation as a productive member of the body politic. Hence the cost of maintaining the state institution, including provision of adequate care for its inmates, cannot be Arbitrarily charged to one class in the society; such assessment violates the equal protection clause.' (Italics added; 60 Cal.2d at p. 720, 36 Cal.Rptr. at p. 490, 388 P.2d at p. 722.)

In the instant case, the statutory provisions entitling an indigent juvenile to be represented by appointed counsel in juvenile court proceedings were enacted for the protection and preservation of the minor's constitutional rights (see In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 34--42, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527), rather than for the protection of society generally. As stated in In re Dennis M., Supra, 70 Cal.2d 444, 456, 75 Cal.Rptr. 1, 8, 450 P.2d 296, 303, '(I)n adult criminal prosecutions * * * a major goal is corrective confinement of the defendant for the protection of society. But even after Gault as we have seen, juvenile proceedings retain a Sui generis character: although certain basic rules of due process must be observed, the proceedings are nevertheless conducted for the protection and benefit of the youth in question.' Thus, the rationale of Hawley and Kirchner, prohibiting the state from recouping the cost of social welfare programs from private sources, is less compelling when applied to section 903.1. See County of Alameda v. Espinoza, Supra, 243 Cal.App.2d 534, 544--546, 52 Cal.Rptr. 480; County of Alameda v. Kaiser, 238 Cal.App.2d 815, 818, 48 Cal.Rptr. 343.)

Moreover, Hawley involved the liability of a father for the care of his insane adult son, who had been charged with the murder of his mother, and Kirchner involved the liability of a daughter for the care of her mentally ill mother. Neither case concerned the discharge of common-law support obligations, since 'At common law there was no liability on a child to support parents, or on parents to support an adult child. (Citations.)' (Dept. of Mental Hygiene v. Kirchner, Supra, 60 Cal.2d 716, 718, fn. 4, 36 Cal.Rptr. 488, 489, 388 P.2d 720, 721.)

The instant case, on the other hand, presents questions regarding the extent of the parents' obligation to support their minor children, an obligation which did exist at common law. (See Civ.Code, §§ 196, 206, 207, 246, 248; 37 Cal.Jur.2d, Parent and Child, § 19, p. 165; 39 Am.Jur., Parent and Child, § 35, pp. 630--631.)

Several recent cases have distinguished Hawley and Kirchner on the ground that those cases did not involve common-law support obligations. (In re Shaieb, 250 Cal.App.2d 553, 557--558, 58 Cal.Rptr. 631 (parent-minor child); Department of Mental Hygiene v. Kolts, 247 Cal.App.2d 154, 157, 163, 55 Cal.Rptr. 437 (husband-wife); Dept. of Mental Hygiene v. O'Connor, 246 Cal.App.2d 24, 27--29, 54 Cal.Rptr. 432 (husband-wife); County of Alameda v. Espinoza, Supra, 243 Cal.App.2d 534, 541--544, 52 Cal.Rptr. 480 (parent-minor child); In re Dudley, 239 Cal.App.2d 401, 408--409, 48 Cal.Rptr. 790 (parent-minor child); County of Alameda v. Kaiser, Supra, 238 Cal.App.2d 815, 818, 48 Cal.Rptr. 343 (parent-minor child)). The Espinoza and Shaieb cases, Supra, upheld the validity of section 903 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, which obligates the parents, spouse, or other person liable for the minor's support, to reimburse the county for the cost of supporting the minor in county facilities pursuant to juvenile court law.

Therefore, if the expenses incurred in procuring counsel to represent the minor in juvenile court proceedings are properly chargeable to the parents as an element of their preexisting support obligation, the reasoning of the foregoing cases should apply, and section 903.1 should be upheld.

Speaking generally of the necessity of representation in criminal proceedings, the United States Supreme Court has stated that 'lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.' (Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 344, 83 S.Ct. 792, 796, 9 L.Ed.2d 799.) The court made the same observation in the context of juvenile proceedings which could involve a loss of liberty: 'The child 'requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. '' (In re Gault, Supra, 387 U.S. 1, 36, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 1448.) Consequently, it would be anamolous to suggest that the parental support obligation extends to furnishing food, clothing, shelter and medical care, 6 but not legal assistance essential to protect and preserve the minor's constitutional rights.

There exists substantial authority holding that counsel fees incurred on behalf of a minor child are in the nature of 'necessaries' for which the parents are liable. (Price v. Perkins, 242 Md. 501, 219 A.2d 557; Schwartz v. Jacob (Tex.Civ.App.) 394 S.W.2d 15, 21; Matthews v. Matthews, 30 Misc.2d 681, 222 N.Y.S.2d 31, affd. 14 N.Y.2d 778, 250 N.Y.S.2d 810, 199 N.E.2d 843; Griston v. Stousland, 186 Misc. 201, 60 N.Y.S.2d 118, 119 (fees for defending child in criminal action); 67 C.J.S. Parent and Child § 16b, subd. (4), p. 703; see Annot. 13 A.L.R.3d 1251, 1256, §§ 3, 4, subd. (b); Leonard v. Alexander, 50 Cal.App.2d 385, 389, 122 P.2d 984; Stone v. Conkle, 31 Cal.App.2d 348, 351, 88 P.2d 197.)

Moreover, a parent's support obligation does not end with furnishing mere necessaries, for the minor is entitled to be maintained in a style and condition consonant with his parent's financial ability and position in society. (Chapin v. Superior Court, 239 Cal.App.2d 851, 856, 49 Cal.Rptr. 199; Caldwell v. Caldwell, 204 Cal.App.2d...

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