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In the Interest v. L.T.

June 21, 2011

IN THE INTEREST OF L.T., A CHILD JACOB RODENBIKER,
PETITIONER AND APPELLEE
v.
L.T., CHILD; H.T., MOTHER, RESPONDENTS AND B.T., FATHER, RESPONDENT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the Juvenile Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce A. Romanick, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandstrom, Justice.

N.D. Supreme Court Interest of L.T., a child, 2011 ND 120

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

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AFFIRMED.

Opinion of the Court by Sandstrom, Justice.

[¶1] B.T., the father of L.T., appeals the juvenile court's order adopting the judicial referee's findings of fact and order committing L.T. to the care of the Division of Juvenile Services following his admissions to gross sexual imposition and ingestion of a controlled substance. We affirm, concluding that the right-to-counsel statute in North Dakota's Uniform Juvenile Court Act protects the constitutional rights of parents and juveniles and that the judicial referee did not err when he did not notify B.T. of the collateral consequences of L.T.'s admissions.

I

[¶2] L.T. was taken into juvenile detention in February 2010 and was accused of committing the delinquent acts of gross sexual imposition and ingestion of a controlled substance. During his initial appearance, L.T. appeared with court-appointed counsel, but his parents were not separately represented. H.T., L.T.'s mother, expressed some confusion about the proceedings, but ultimately requested that L.T. be returned home from detention. The judicial referee granted this request, placing L.T. under house arrest pending adjudication of his delinquency charges.

[¶3] L.T. was again represented by court-appointed counsel at his pretrial conference, but his parents did not have separate representation. During this hearing, L.T. admitted to the charges in the State's petition following an amendment. This amendment reduced the felony level of the gross sexual imposition charge against L.T., allowing him to avoid proceedings in adult court. The referee ordered disposition at a later date, and directed L.T. to undergo a psychological and sexual behavior evaluation for purposes of potential registration as a sexual offender. The referee also informed L.T.'s parents they could apply for individual court-appointed counsel for the dispositional hearing as authorized by N.D.C.C. § 27-20-26(1).

[¶4] At the dispositional hearing, L.T., B.T., and H.T. were all represented by separate court-appointed counsel. There was much debate over mandatory registration of L.T. as a sexual offender, but the judicial referee concluded L.T. would be required to register under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-15(2). As a result of his admissions and other recent behavior, L.T. was committed to the care of the Division of Juvenile Services.

[¶5] Neither L.T. nor H.T. appealed the judicial referee's order committing L.T. to the Division of Juvenile Services and mandating his registration as a sexual offender. B.T. appealed, however, requesting the juvenile court to review the judicial referee's order. B.T. argued the referee erred by not adequately advising B.T. that L.T. would be required to register as a sexual offender after admitting to the State's charges. Further, B.T. contended it was unconstitutional for an indigent parent to be denied court-appointed counsel under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-26(1) during the adjudicative phase of a juvenile delinquency proceeding. The juvenile court rejected B.T.'s arguments and adopted the judicial referee's findings and order.

[¶6] On appeal, B.T. argues N.D.C.C. § 27-20-26(1) is unconstitutional because it does not provide indigent parents with court-appointed counsel during the adjudicative phase of a juvenile delinquency proceeding. B.T. also contends the judicial referee erred by failing to advise him that mandatory registration as a sexual offender was a consequence of L.T's admission to the State's charges.

[¶7] The juvenile court had jurisdiction under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-03(1)(a). The district court judge had jurisdiction under N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 13(11) to review the referee's findings and order. The notice of appeal was timely under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-56(1). This Court has jurisdiction ...


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