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In re Welfare of J. J. P.

Supreme Court of Minnesota

May 22, 2013

In the Matter of the Welfare of: J. J. P.

Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant Hennepin County.

Jon Geffen, Arneson & Geffen, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent J.J.P.

John Kingrey, Executive Director, Janelle P. Kendall, Stearns County Attorney, Dana D. Erickson, Assistant Stearns County Attorney, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

Nicole M. Moen, Sarah C.S. McLaren, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amici curiae Council on Crime and Justice, Legal Rights Center, Children's Law Center of Minnesota, Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Minnesota State Public Defender, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Child Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic, Volunteer Lawyers Network, and YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.

Mark A. Haase, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Corrections Association.

Lindsay Davis, Diana Ky, Law Offices of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., Saint Paul, Minnesota; and

Charles H. Thomas, Mankato Minnesota, for amicus curiae Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc.

Joanna Woolman, Megan Schouvieller, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus curiae William Mitchell Law Clinic.

SYLLABUS

1. Under Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 6 (2012), the district court is authorized to expunge from executive branch files the court order adjudicating the juvenile delinquent when the district court deems it advisable.

2. The authority of the district court under section 260B.198, subdivision 6 to expunge the order adjudicating a juvenile delinquent in executive branch files does not usurp or diminish the power of the Department of Human Services to conduct background checks of individuals adjudicated delinquent, and therefore does not violate the separation of powers.

3. Under section 260B.198, subdivision 6, the district court's discretion should be guided by a balancing test that examines whether expungement of the order adjudicating the juvenile delinquent would yield a benefit to the petitioner that outweighs the detriment to the public in sealing the record and the burden on the court in issuing, enforcing, and monitoring the expungement order.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

OPINION

DIETZEN, Justice.

This case presents the question of whether Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 6 (2012), authorizes the district court to expunge juvenile delinquency records held by executive branch agencies. Respondent J.J.P., who was adjudicated delinquent of felony burglary and misdemeanor theft, obtained a district court order expunging his juvenile delinquency records held by the judicial branch. More recently, J.J.P. petitioned the district court to expunge his juvenile delinquency records held by the executive branch. The district court denied the request, but the court of appeals reversed. We conclude that under section 260B.198, subdivision 6, the authority of the district court to expunge juvenile delinquency records in executive branch files is limited to the order adjudicating the juvenile delinquent. Further, to determine whether expungement is advisable within the meaning of section 260B.198, subdivision 6, we conclude that the district court must weigh the benefit to the petitioner against the detriment to the public and the burden on the court. Thus, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

When J.J.P. was 17 years old, he broke into a golf course clubhouse and removed food and beverage items from the snack bar. Ten days later, he shoplifted a pair of shoes from a department store. The State charged J.J.P. with felony second-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft. J.J.P. admitted to the charges, and in September 2002, the district court adjudicated him delinquent of both offenses.

In February 2008, the district court considered and granted J.J.P.'s pro se petition to expunge records documenting his delinquency history. Yet the court limited its order to "[a]ll official records held by the Fourth Judicial District Court—Juvenile Division, other than the non-public records retained by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, including all records relating to arrest, indictment or complaint, trial, dismissal and discharge."

Currently, J.J.P. works as a licensed emergency medical technician and a firefighter. Because his career goal is to be a paramedic, he enrolled in the required clinical coursework at a local college. At the college's request, the Department of Human Services (DHS) conducted a background check to determine whether J.J.P. was qualified to serve as a paramedic under state law. Based upon J.J.P.'s delinquency-adjudication records in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) file, DHS concluded that J.J.P. was barred from "any position allowing direct contact with, or access to, persons receiving services from programs licensed by DHS and the Minnesota Department of Health." As a result, DHS disqualified J.J.P. from becoming a paramedic.[1]

In November 2010, J.J.P. petitioned the district court to expunge his executive branch records, including those held by the BCA, DHS, and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), on the ground that Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 6, permitted the court to expunge all of his juvenile delinquency records.[2] The district court denied the petition. The court concluded that section 260B.198, subdivision 6 authorized it to expunge executive branch records, and that its exercise of that statutory authority did not implicate the separation-of-powers doctrine. But the court also concluded that J.J.P. did not sufficiently demonstrate a case for expungement under Minn. Stat. ch. 609A (2012), which governs expungement of adult criminal records; that J.J.P. "would not suffer undue hardship" because he could seek a set aside; and that J.J.P. failed to show that the "benefits of granting an expungement . . . do not outweigh the potential detriment to society."

The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the district court abused its discretion in denying J.J.P.'s petition. In re Welfare of J.J.P., 811 N.W.2d 125, 132-33 (Minn.App. 2012). The court concluded that the phrase "adjudication of delinquency" in section 260B.198, subdivision 6 granted the district court expansive authority to expunge all juvenile delinquency records held by executive branch agencies, and that expunging executive branch records does not create a separation-of-powers conflict. Id. at 128-30 (internal quotation marks omitted). The court also concluded that the guidelines set forth in Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 15.05, which address the imposition of a disposition in a delinquency case, rather than the standards articulated in chapter 609A, govern the district court's ...


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