December 11, 2012
In Response to "Kids-for-Cash" Scandal, PA Supreme Court Adopts New Rules of Appellate Procedure
In response to the judicial corruption scandal in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted expedited rules of appellate procedure to review challenges to out-of-home placements.
On December 10, 2012, the Court adopted new Rules of Appellate Procedure that provide for quick review of out-of-home placement in delinquency matters. Because juveniles often complete their time in placement in less time than it typically takes to process an appeal from an adjudication, new Rule 1770 provides an immediate mechanism for juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent to have their out-of-home placement reviewed by the appellate court prior to formal appellate review of the adjudication or other matters.
To challenge the fact of out-of-home placement, a juvenile must file a petition within ten days of the juvenile court order placing him in an agency or institution providing care, treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation. The petition is limited in scope—Rule 1770 explicitly rejects challenges either to the specific agency or institution to which the youth is placed, or to the underlying adjudication of delinquency. Rather, the petition must delineate the reasons why the juvenile court abused its discretion in ordering out-of-home placement and proposed terms for an alternative disposition. The state has ten days to respond to the petition.
This Rule complements Rule of Juvenile Court Procedure 512. Also adopted by the Supreme Court last year in response to the scandal in Luzerne County, Rule 512 provides that the juvenile court judge must state on the record the reasons for disposition and out-of-home placement. Rule of Appellate Procedure 1770 provides that if the juvenile court did not provide the reasons for out-of-home placement pursuant to Rule 512, it must file within five days a brief statement of its reasons.
Rule 1770, which takes effect in 60 days, does not set forth a time frame in which the appellate court must rule.
Rule 1770 is the most recent of a series of measures enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Supreme Court to improve the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system. Other measures have included enhancing and ensuring the right to counsel in delinquency proceedings and prohibition on the use of restraints and shackles in the courtroom.