IN RE JEFFREY M., SC 18959
Judicial District of Hartford
Juveniles; Whether Appellate Court Properly Determined That General Statutes § 46b-140 (f) does not Authorize a Trial Court to Order the Direct Placement of a Child Committed to DCF to an Out-of-State Residential Facility. After Jeffrey M. pleaded guilty to robbery in the second degree, the trial court found him to be delinquent and ordered that he be committed to the custody of the department of children and families (DCF) and that DCF place him in a residential facility in Pennsylvania. DCF appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court improperly ordered it to place Jeffrey in an out-of-state facility. The Appellate Court (134 Conn. App. 29) agreed and reversed the trial court's judgment. It rejected Jeffrey's claim that the trial court had the authority under General Statutes § 46b-140 (f) to order that he be placed in the Pennsylvania facility. Subsection (f) of § 46b-140 provides: "If the court . . . finds that its probation services or other services . . . are not adequate for such child, the court shall commit such child to [DCF] in accordance with the provisions of section 46b-141. Prior to making such commitment, the court shall consult with [DCF] to determine the placement which will be in the best interest of such child." Jeffrey argued that that language requires a court only to consult with DCF to determine which placement is in the juvenile's best interest and that the court is not bound by DCF's recommendation but retains the ultimate authority to assess placement. He insisted that the court met the consulting requirements of subsection (f) when it received DCF's evaluation recommending nonresidential treatment, even though it ultimately disregarded that recommendation. He therefore argued that the court had the authority to place him at any facility it determined to be in his best interest, including an out-of-state facility. The Appellate Court stated that when reading subsection (f) in the context of the entire statute, it was clear that Jeffrey's arguments were flawed. It found that subsection (f) explicitly allows the trial court to commit a child only to DCF. It further stated that because other subsections of § 46b-140 explicitly authorize the trial court to directly place children, the legislature intentionally declined to give the trial court such power under subsection (f). Hence, it ruled that the trial court's placement order could not have lawfully been issued pursuant to that subsection. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether § 46b-140 (f) authorizes a trial judge to order the direct placement of a child committed to DCF to an out-of-state residential facility.