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In re D.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 16, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF D.C., Minor Child, D.C., Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Steven J. Holwerda, District Associate Judge.

         Juvenile challenges the revocation of a consent decree and delinquency adjudication.

          Christopher A. Clausen of Clausen Law Office, Ames, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         This appeal involves two delinquency proceedings. In the first proceeding, D.C. was charged with theft in the second degree. His appointed counsel in the case was attorney Christopher Clausen. In December 2016, the juvenile court entered a consent decree and placed the child under the supervision of the juvenile court officer. The district court was initially reluctant to grant the consent decree because of the child's delinquency history. Ultimately, the court granted the consent decree because the court did not want to unduly punish the child when it was D.C.'s parents who used their "children as pawns" to operate a "theft ring" so "the parents will avoid culpability and the children will be treated as children and only get their hands slapped." In February 2017, the juvenile court officer filed an application to revoke the consent decree when the child was accused of theft from a local grocery store after a police officer found stolen items in D.C.'s backpack. The grocery-store theft led to the filing of the second delinquency proceeding at issue in this appeal. The second delinquency petition alleged D.C. committed theft in the fifth degree.

         Although Clausen was not initially appointed as D.C.'s counsel in the second delinquency proceeding, he acted as D.C.'s counsel in both the revocation case and the new case. For example, on February 22, the juvenile court granted Clausen's motion to continue the revocation hearing. On March 9, the juvenile court entered an order continuing both cases and identified Clausen at the child's attorney. On March 31, the juvenile court, upon agreement of the parties, again continued the revocation and adjudication hearings.

          The revocation and adjudication hearings were held on April 13. At that time, Clausen notified the court he had not been formally appointed in the new case because the parents had not yet filed an application for appointment of counsel. He asked for a brief recess to allow the parents to complete the necessary forms. The juvenile court stated the parents could complete the forms after the hearing and the court would "make the appointments retroactive." Clausen responded that would be fine and he was ready to proceed. Clausen told the juvenile court he was aware of the facts in both cases, stating, "I'm not at a disadvantage in terms of knowing the facts and being able to proceed." On that basis, the juvenile court proceeded with the hearing. Clausen then moved to continue the adjudication hearing after the close of the State's evidence:

I would ask the court for a continuance, so that I may get copies of the statements that the officer referenced. I have a potential witness, including the parents, who think there may be a statement in there that they can disprove. And, also, I would like an opportunity to look into the backpack issue a little further, and it seems to me that might have been an appropriate issue for a motion to suppress.

         The juvenile court denied the motion to continue, and D.C. presented his case. The juvenile court adjudicated D.C. delinquent on the new theft charge. The court continued the revocation hearing to a later date to coincide with disposition on the delinquency adjudication. The juvenile court also entered an order appointing Clausen as counsel in the new case.

         After several continuances, the juvenile court held a combined disposition and revocation hearing. The juvenile court revoked the consent decree and adjudicated D.C. delinquent on the charges of theft in the second degree and theft in the fifth degree.

         D.C. raises several claims of error related to both proceedings. Iowa juvenile delinquency proceedings are not criminal prosecutions but are special proceedings that provide an ameliorative alternative to the criminal prosecution of children. See In re J.A.L., 694 N.W.2d 748, 751 (Iowa 2005). Generally, our review of juvenile delinquency proceedings is de novo. See In re C.L.C., Jr., 798 N.W.2d 329, 334-35 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011). Still, we review subsidiary motions such as the denial of a motion to continue and motion for new trial for an abuse of discretion. See id; see also Jack v. Booth, 858 N.W.2d 711, 718 (Iowa 2015) (motion for new trial); State v. Artzer, 609 N.W.2d 526, 529 (Iowa 2000) (motion for continuance); In re K.M., No. 16-0778, 2016 WL 4379361, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 17, 2016) (acknowledging in other juvenile adjudications we "review subsidiary rulings for an abuse of discretion").

         In his first claim of error, D.C. contends the district court abused its discretion is denying his mid-hearing motion to continue. A motion to continue "shall not be granted except for good cause." Iowa R. Juv. P. 8.5. "The decision to grant or deny a motion for continuance rests in the sound discretion of the trial judge." See Artzer, 609 N.W.2d at 530. ...

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