IN RE JOSE B., SC 18753

Juvenile Matters at Hartford


      Juveniles; Whether Trial Court had Subject Matter Jurisdiction over Neglect Petition after Child Reached Age of Eighteen. Two days before his eighteenth birthday, Jose B. filed a neglect petition seeking an adjudication that he was neglected and uncared for.  He claimed that his mother lived in Puerto Rico, that his father's identity and whereabouts were unknown and that, while he had been living with an uncle, he had become homeless following the uncle's incarceration.  The trial court dismissed the petition on Jose's turning eighteen, ruling that it lacked statutory authority to commit an individual who was eighteen years of age or older on a retroactive basis.  Jose appealed to the Appellate Court (125 Conn. App. 572), which affirmed the judgment of dismissal.  The Appellate Court noted that, while the trial court's jurisdiction did not cease merely because Jose turned eighteen, Jose failed to establish the factual predicate for the trial court to exercise its jurisdiction to commit him to the custody of the department of children and families pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-129 (j).  Section 46b-129 (j) gives the trial court authority to commit a "child" or "youth"—individuals defined by statute as being under the age of eighteen—and the Appellate Court ruled that there was no statutory authority for a retroactive commitment of someone eighteen or older.  The court also observed that, while there was some statutory authority allowing committed minors to remain in the care of the department of children and families until they reach the age of twenty-one under certain conditions, those statutes require that such individuals must previously have been in the care of the department.  The Supreme Court granted Jose's petition for certification and will consider whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over his neglect petition.