State v. Gleason

CourtSupreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
Citation404 A.2d 573
PartiesSTATE of Maine v. Michael GLEASON.
Decision Date31 July 1979

Henry N. Berry, III, Dist. Atty., Peter G. Ballou (orally), Deputy Dist. Atty., William Keefe, Law Student (orally), Joanne S. Sataloff, Asst. Dist. Atty., Portland, Glenn Robinson, Law Student Intern, George Schelling, Law Student Intern, for plaintiff.

Shortill & Shortill by Thomas F. Shortill (orally), John M. Shortill (orally), Sanford, for defendant.


NICHOLS, Justice.

For the first time since the Maine Juvenile Code 1 took effect on July 1, 1978, we encounter a challenge to the constitutionality of the new Code. The fourteen-year-old juvenile, Michael Gleason, in these two appeals, consolidated for argument, has launched a broad-gauged attack upon the procedures embodied in this Code.

We conclude that the Maine Juvenile Code retains the beneficent and basically rehabilitative purposes of our prior law relating to juveniles. Fundamental fairness, after all, does not require identical procedures for dealing with juvenile crimes and adult crimes.

We, therefore, deny both his appeals.

Just before midnight on October 4, 1978, a Portland police officer, Douglas Cole, noticed certain suspicious circumstances at Nick's Variety Store in that city. He investigated and then radioed for assistance. This juvenile, Michael Gleason, was apprehended by another officer as he emerged from a window of that store. The proprietor of that store subsequently found that two six-packs of beer were missing from the cooler.

On October 5, 1978, this juvenile was ordered held in detention pending an adjudication on the offense of burglary (17-A M.R.S.A. § 401) by the District Court, sitting as the Juvenile Court, in District Nine. At that hearing it was urged on behalf of this juvenile that the procedures there used violated the Maine and United States Constitutions by (1) including no finding of probable cause to believe that the juvenile had committed the offense; (2) affording him no rights of confrontation, cross-examination, compulsory process and counsel; (3) failing to adequately preserve the right to bail, and (4) denying him the right against self-incrimination. He also challenged certain relevant portions of 15 M.R.S.A. § 3203 (Supp.1978) as unconstitutionally vague.

On the same day this juvenile appealed from the order of detention to the Superior Court in Cumberland County. A month later, on November 6, 1978, he was released from detention to the custody of his mother. Four more days went by and the Superior Court dismissed this appeal as moot. On November 15, 1978, this juvenile filed his notice of appeal to this Court from such dismissal in the Superior Court.

On November 21, 1978, in Juvenile Court this juvenile was adjudicated guilty of the offense charged. At the outset of the hearing his constitutional right to a jury trial and his right to have the matter first presented to a grand jury for possible indictment were argued in his behalf. Three days later, he filed his appeal to Superior Court from this adjudication in Juvenile Court.

On November 28, 1978, following a disposition hearing this juvenile was sentenced to the Maine Youth Center for an indefinite period, but to terminate no later than his eighteenth birthday on June 20, 1982. It is now contended in his behalf that such a sentence violates constitutional due process and equal protection since, taken in conjunction with 15 M.R.S.A. §§ 3314, 3316 and 3317 (Supp.1978), the Maine Juvenile Code permits the imposition upon a juvenile of a sentence longer than that which may lawfully be imposed upon an adult for the same offense. He appealed to the Superior Court from this order on November 30, 1978.

By order of January 19, 1979, the Superior Court reaffirmed its dismissal of this juvenile's appeal from the order of detention and denied both the appeal from the adjudication of his commission of the offense and the appeal from the disposition imposed.

On January 25, 1979, this juvenile appealed to this Court from that order.


Jurisdictional questions confront us at the threshold. The State contends that the order of detention was an interlocutory order, reviewable on appeal, but not properly appealable itself, because it was not a final judgment. M.R.Civ.P. 73. See generally 3 H. Glassman, Maine Practice § 37.3 (1967); 2 R. Field, V. McKusick & K. Wroth, Maine Civil Practice § 73.2 (1970). This juvenile responds that jurisdiction of that appeal was conferred upon this Court and the Superior Court, notwithstanding the final judgment rule, by 15 M.R.S.A. §§ 3401 and 3402 (Supp.1978). 2 He contends that the order of detention was a "final order" as there defined and, therefore, appealable.

We do not reach this jurisdictional question since, under the circumstances, it would not affect our disposition of this appeal.

The final judgment rule is directed against piecemeal review; that danger is not present in this case. See DiBella v. United States, 369 U.S. 121, 124, 82 S.Ct. 654, 656, 7 L.Ed.2d 614 (1962); Cobbledick v. United States, 309 U.S. 323, 325, 60 S.Ct. 540, 541, 84 L.Ed.2d 783, 785 (1940); Allen v. Cole Realty, Inc., Me., 325 A.2d 19, 21 (1974); State v. Brown, 75 Me. 456 (1883).

This juvenile cautiously appealed at the time the order was originally entered as well as following the adjudication and disposition. Which of these appeals was validly taken need not be decided in order to determine that upon one of them the question has been properly brought before this Court. 3

As a second jurisdictional issue we must consider the rationale of the Superior Court justice who dismissed for mootness this juvenile's appeal from the order of detention following his release from that detention on November 6, 1978.

Firmly fixed is the rule that courts should decline to decide issues which by virtue of valid and recognizable supervening circumstances have lost their controversial vitality. Such cases are moot. Good Will Home Ass'n. v. Erwin, Me., 285 A.2d 374, 379 (1971). This rule is founded on the policies of avoidance of the useless expenditure of judicial resources, maintenance of flexibility in the law and prevention of premature intrusion into policy-making areas best left to the legislature. Note, 88 Harv.L.Rev. 373, 375 (1974). See also Bennett v. State, Me., 289 A.2d 28, 32 (1972) (decision of questions of no practical consequences should not be permitted to burden courts). The test is whether there remain sufficient practical effects flowing from the resolution of this litigation to justify the application of limited judicial resources.

Application of this test to specific cases has produced several exceptions to the rule of mootness, as well-recognized as the basic rule itself. First, the court will determine whether sufficient collateral consequences will result from determination of the questions presented so as to justify relief. See Bennett v. State, supra; Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 53-55, 88 S.Ct. 1889, 20 L.Ed.2d 917 (1968). Second, while technically moot in the immediate context, questions of great public interest may nevertheless be addressed for the future guidance of the bar and of the public. See King Resources Co. v. Environmental Improvement Com'n., Me.,270 A.2d 863, 870 (1970); East Meadow Community Concerts Ass'n. v. Board of Education, 18 N.Y.2d 129, 272 N.Y.S.2d 341, 344, 219 N.E.2d 172, 174 (1966). Third, issues which may be repeatedly presented to the trial court, yet escape review at the appellate level because of their fleeting or determinate nature, may appropriately be decided. See Super Tire Engineering Co. v. McCorkle, 416 U.S. 115, 125-126, 94 S.Ct. 1694, 40 L.Ed.2d 1 (1974); Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 125, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973); Cf. Good Will Home Assoc. v. Erwin, supra, at 380.

This juvenile questions a broad range of the procedures for review of an order of detention under 15 M.R.S.A. § 3203(5).

He argued to the Juvenile Court that portions of this statute are unconstitutionally vague, that he was denied a fair hearing on the issue of probable cause for pre-trial detention with the rights of assistance of counsel, of confrontation of witnesses and compulsory process, that the right to refuse to testify against oneself was denied him, and that the failure of the statute to provide for release on bail was unconstitutional. These questions clearly are of considerable public interest because they are involved in every proceeding for the review of detention ordered by a juvenile intake worker pursuant to 15 M.R.S.A. § 3203(4). The public has a fundamental interest in assuring that the guarantees of both the state and federal constitutions are fully respected in any judicial proceedings.

Nevertheless, the public interest in decision of the question whether a determination of probable cause must precede a continued detention has been diminished by the enactment of P.L., 1979, c. 512, § 3, which added a sub-paragraph to 15 M.R.S.A. § 3203(5) (Supp.1978), effective September 13, 1979, providing:

D. No continued detention shall be ordered unless the juvenile court shall determine that there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile has committed a juvenile crime. That determination shall be made on the basis of evidence, including reliable hearsay evidence, presented in testimony or affidavits.

The question of whether a probable cause determination prior to continued detention was mandated under prior law is no longer of general public interest and is mooted by that change in the Maine Juvenile Code.

We limit our consideration to the other questions raised by the juvenile with respect to his detention prior to the adjudication which remain of great public interest and, therefore, properly reviewable despite the elements of mootness which are present. 4


The issues raised by the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
73 cases
  • Schall v. Martin Abrams v. Martin
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 4, 1984 the control of their parents, and if parental control falters, the State must play its part as parens patriae. See State v. Gleason, 404 A.2d 573, 580 (Me.1979); People ex rel. Wayburn v. Schupf, supra, at 690, 385 N.Y.S.2d, at 522, 350 N.E.2d, at 910; Baker v. Smith, 477 S.W.2d 149, 150......
  • In re L.M.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • June 20, 2008
    ...State, ex rel. D.J., 817 So.2d 26 (La.2002) (dissenting justice concluded changes to system required a jury trial); State v. Gleason, 404 A.2d 573 (Me.1979) (concluding new juvenile code retained beneficent and rehabilitative purposes of prior code); State v. Lawley, 91 Wash.2d 654, 591 P.2......
  • Hey, Matter of, 21676
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 18, 1994
    ...See Israel v. West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Comm'n, 182 W.Va. 454, 457, 388 S.E.2d 480, 483 (1989), quoting State v. Gleason, 404 A.2d 573, 578 (Me.1979) (" 'while technically moot in the immediate context, questions of great public interest may nevertheless be addressed for th......
  • Israel by Israel v. West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Com'n, 18904
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 20, 1989
    ...years. In State ex rel. M.C.H. v. Kinder, 173 W.Va. 387, 390, 317 S.E.2d 150, 153 (1984), we quoted and adopted from State v. Gleason, 404 A.2d 573, 578 (Me.1979), three factors to be considered in deciding whether to address technically moot " 'First, the court will determine whether suffi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT