IN RE JESSICA M., SC 18752
Juvenile Matters at Hartford
Juveniles; Whether Trial Court had Subject Matter Jurisdiction over Neglect Petition After Child Reached Age of Eighteen. Jessica M. filed a petition seeking to have herself adjudicated as neglected and as an uncared-for youth. Although the petitioner was seventeen years old when she filed the neglect petition, she reached the age of eighteen before the scheduled trial date. As a result, the department of children and families, which had intervened in the matter, moved to dismiss the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion, finding that it lost subject matter jurisdiction over the petition when the petitioner turned eighteen and that the petition was moot because, due to the petitioner's age, the court no longer had the statutory authority to issue any order committing the petitioner to the custody of the department of children and families or to transfer guardianship over her to another person. Under General Statutes § 46b-129 (j), the court is authorized to commit a "child" or "youth" to the custody of the department of children and families. A "child" or "youth" is defined by General Statutes § 46b-120 as an individual under the age of eighteen. The petitioner appealed to the Appellate Court (125 Conn. App. 584), which affirmed the decision dismissing the petition. The Appellate Court relied on its decision in In re Jose B., 125 Conn. App. 572 (2010), cert. granted, 300 Conn. 916 (2011), which involved a similar fact pattern and was released on the same day as the opinion in the present appeal. As in In re Jose B., the Appellate Court concluded that although the jurisdiction of the juvenile matters court did not cease merely because the petitioner reached the age of eighteen, the petitioner failed to establish the factual predicate required for the trial court to exercise jurisdiction under General Statutes § 46b-129 (j). The Appellate Court also concluded that, contrary to the petitioner’s claims, there was no statutory authority for a retroactive commitment. In this certified appeal, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the neglect petition.