The District Court denied habeas corpus relief to appellant, a seventeen year old juvenile, on his allegation that he was unlawfully confined in the District of Columbia Receiving Home for Children. He was permitted to appeal in forma pauperis and the record was docketed in this court on November 10, 1966. But when appellant's attorney took no further action to prosecute the appeal, even after this default was called to his attention by our Clerk, we entered an order to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed. Counsel responded with a lengthy memorandum, in lieu of a brief for appellant, which caused us to require full argument on the issues revealed therein and to order, sua sponte, that appellant's social file in the Juvenile Court be transmitted to this court for an in camera inspection.
Appellant was arrested on May 31, 1966, on a charge of robbery and detained at the Receiving Home by the Juvenile Bureau of the Police Department. A week later the Juvenile Court ordered that confinement be continued and, in due course, a petition charging twelve law violations was filed in the Juvenile Court. 11 D.C.Code § 1551(a) (1) (A) (Supp. V, 1966). Subsequently, the Juvenile Court scheduled the matter for trial "subject to call of clerk's office."
Before trial in the Juvenile Court appellant filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus in the District Court asserting that his detention in the Receiving Home was unlawful, and alleging, inter alia, that the Receiving Home has no facilities to provide psychiatric assistance which he needs,
We begin by noting that in general habeas corpus is available not only to an applicant who claims he is entitled to be freed of all restraints, but also to an applicant who protests his confinement in a certain place, or under certain conditions, that he claims vitiate the justification for confinement.
Turning to the considerations that apply with respect to juveniles in custody under the Juvenile Court Act, we begin by emphasizing that the Juvenile Court legislation rests, in various aspects, on the premise that the state is acting as parens patriae, that it is undertaking in effect to provide for the child the kind of environment he should have been receiving at home, and that it is because of this that the appropriate officials, while subject of course to the requirement that juvenile proceedings must not be arbitrary or unfair, are permitted to take and retain custody of the child without affording him all the various procedural rights available to adults suspected of crime.
In the "Construction and purpose" section of the Juvenile Court Act, Congress has provided that its provisions
The Congressional objective comprehends psychiatric care in appropriate cases. See 11 D.C.Code §§ 1551(a) (1) (F) and (G) (Supp. V, 1966), which provides that the Juvenile Court may remove a child from his family if the parent neglects to "provide support and care necessary for his health or welfare" or "neglects or refuses to provide or avail himself of the special care made necessary by his mental condition."
The interrelated provisions of the Act, which must be read together, include the command of Congress specifying: "Every officer and department of the District of Columbia is required to render all assistance and co-operation within his or its jurisdictional power which may further the objects of this chapter and subchapter I of chapter 23 of Title 16." 11 D.C.Code § 1584 (Supp. V, 1966). Congress empowered the Juvenile Court to "cause a child coming under its jurisdiction to be examined by a physician, psychiatrist or psychologist appointed by it." 16 D.C.Code § 2312 (Supp. V, 1966). It also required the Commissioners to appoint qualified experts whose services are available to the Juvenile Court. 24 D.C.Code § 106 (1961).
The inquiry whether the juvenile is validly in the Receiving Home may entail the issue whether he may lawfully be detained there under conditions that are violative of the statute. The law provides, see 16 D.C.Code § 2306 (Supp. V, 1966), that a child whose custody is assumed by the court "may, pending final disposition of the case" be released in the custody of a parent or other person appointed by the court, and continues: "When not released as herein provided, the child, pending the hearing of the case, shall be detained in a place of detention provided by the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia or its authorized representative, subject to further order of the court." We are informed and we assume that the Receiving Home is the only place of detention hitherto provided by the Commissioners for those awaiting disposition in the Juvenile Court.
There is, of course, a vast difference between the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court to make orders as to confinement and the possible jurisdiction of the District Court to order release on habeas corpus. But it clarifies analysis to note that in an appropriate case, say the need for removal to a hospital, the District Court is not lacking in power to release on habeas corpus if the core injustice cannot be resolved in any other way.
Perhaps another illustration — not the case before us — would arise if the child were taken into interim custody because the preliminary assessment of the Juvenile Court reveals a child in need of psychiatric care which his parents refuse to permit, and is nevertheless put into the Receiving Home where no such care is available.
The power of inquiry on habeas corpus in these cases is no different fundamentally from the power to release on habeas corpus if a juvenile subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court is consigned or transferred, in violation of applicable law, to an institution housing adult criminals.
Perhaps some distinction may rightly be drawn, in terms of initial inquiry, between final disposition and interim custody. We are aware that the practice of the Juvenile Court is to expedite the final disposition determinations of those juveniles who are held in interim custody, although there are unfortunately cases where interim custody is protracted.
Our determination that the obligation of initial inquiry and action rests, in the first instance, with the Juvenile Court is consistent with the clear Congressional purpose to establish a professionally staffed, specialized court, equipped with broad powers to implement the rehabilitative purposes of the statute. That court is rightly vested with a broad range of discretion in light of its professional expertise. The essence of expertise and discretion is an informed choice between alternatives. When the expert discretion of the Juvenile Court is exercised with knowledge of the salient facts, its exercise of discretion will not be disturbed absent clear abuse. But its wide range of discretion is not a license to be arbitrary, or to refuse to see, hear or speak on the facts. Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 86 S.Ct. 1045, 16 L.Ed.2d 84 (1966).
That the determinations of the Juvenile Court are not immune from
Subsequent to the habeas corpus proceedings and before appellant's counsel brought the matter to our attention, the Juvenile Court proceeded to trial and found appellant "involved" on an allegation of the petition.
Appeal dismissed as moot.
This court has held it appropriate for the District Court to inquire into the suitability of the transferee institution. In Harris v. Kennedy, supra, a juvenile, who had been committed under the Juvenile Court Act to the National Training School and subsequently transferred by the Attorney General to a federal correctional institution pursuant to his authority under 18 U.S.C. § 4082, sought to have the District Court declare the transfer invalid and order him back to the National Training School. On appeal from the District Court's summary denial, this court (Judges Danaher, Bastian and Burger) in chambers entered an order which provided in part:
(a) Pending review of a decision refusing a writ of habeas corpus, or refusing a rule to show cause why the writ should not be granted, the custody of the prisoner shall not be disturbed, except by order of the court, or of a judge thereof, upon a showing that custodial considerations require his removal. In such cases, the order of the court or judge will make appropriate provision for substitution so that the case will not become moot.
(b) Pending review of a decision discharging a writ of habeas corpus after it has been issued, or discharging a rule to show cause why such a writ should not be granted, the prisoner may be remanded to the custody from which he was taken by the writ, or detained in other appropriate custody, or enlarged upon recognizance with surety, as to the court or judge rendering the decision may appear fitting in the circumstances of the particular case.
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(d) Except as elsewhere provided in this rule, the initial order respecting the custody or enlargement of the prisoner pending review, as also any recognizance taken, shall be deemed to cover not only the review in this court but also the further possible review in the Supreme Court; and only where special reasons therefor are shown to this court or to a judge thereof will that order to be disturbed, or any independent order made in that regard.