Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed December 19, 2013
In re Danielle J., 2013 IL 110810
Direct appeal from the circuit court of Cook County.
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Karmeier concurred in part and dissented in part, with opinion.
In January of 2010, there was a fistfight at Ace Technical Charter High School in Chicago. In juvenile proceedings seeking an adjudication of delinquency, this minor respondent, then 15, was charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly striking a female classmate in the face and chest. The State’s offer to recommend a continuance under supervision in return for a guilty plea was rejected, and the case proceeded to a bench trial at which the victim and a security guard who had intervened testified. The accused minor also testified, claiming that she had acted in self-defense. The trial judge entered a finding of guilt.
At the sentencing hearing, the probation officer and the State both recommended probation, but defense counsel asked for a continuance under supervision. The judge said that the Juvenile Court Act precludes the granting of supervision to minors without the permission of the State’s Attorney, noting that this “approval provision” does not apply in the adult criminal system. The judge placed the minor on supervision (over the State’s objection) and held the approval provision unconstitutional on its face and as applied. This direct appeal from the finding of statutory unconstitutionality followed.
In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court said that the Juvenile Court Act has been interpreted to require that the possibility of supervision be broached and considered before proceeding to a finding of guilt and adjudication as to delinquency. Here, because supervision was not requested before the finding of guilt, any objection by the prosecutor had become irrelevant, and the circuit court should not have reached the constitutional issue concerning the approval provision because the minor lacked standing to raise it. The circuit court erred in reaching the constitutional issue, and its finding of unconstitutionality was vacated. The supervision order stands reversed as void.
The question remains as to what disposition to enter concerning the minor. In this appeal, she alleged that she had received ineffective assistance of counsel because her attorney did not know at what point the issue of supervision had to be raised. She claimed that she did not know she was giving up the opportunity for supervision by rejecting the State’s plea offer, and that her attorney did not know that supervision had to be requested before a finding of guilt was entered. She alleged that the trial court was also unaware of the proper sequencing of events, and she also claimed plain error. In this decision, the supreme court agreed that the minor had been prejudiced. The cause was remanded for a new first-phase hearing, at which the minor can request supervision at the appropriate time. Should that occur, and should the State object, a challenge to the validity of the approval provision could properly be raised.