In re Jose B., In re Jessica M.

In re Jose B., 303 Conn. 569, 34 A.3d 975 (2012), In re Jessica M., 303 Conn. 584, 35 A.3d 1072

(2012) (Sarah Eagan)

 

In Jose B., two days before he turned eighteen years old, Jose filed a petition to have himself adjudicated as neglected and uncared-for under General Statutes § 46b-129 (a).  In Jessica M., the Jessica filed a neglect petition two months before her eighteenth birthday.  DCF filed motions to dismiss in both cases because the petitions remained pending at the time the petitioners turned eighteen.  In Jose B., the trial court granted DCF’s dismissal motion on the basis that the court lacked statutory authority to commit a person who was eighteen or older on a retroactive basis.  In Jessica M., the trial court dismissed the petition after concluding that the court lost subject matter jurisdiction over the action once the petitioner turned eighteen.  The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court judgments in both cases the on the ground that that court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the petitions.  In re Jose B., 125 Conn. App. 572, 11 A.3d 682 (2010),  In re Jessica M., 125 Conn. App. 584, 11 A.3d 689 (2010).

 

The Supreme Court accepted certiorari in both cases and affirmed the appellate court’s decisions, although on a distinct basis.   After discussing the distinctions between subject matter jurisdiction and statutory authority, the Supreme Court concluded that the action implicated the latter.  Specifically, while the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters may issue certain orders on behalf of an eighteen year who is already committed to DCF custody (see In re Matthew F., 297 Conn. 673 (2010)) the Supreme Court determined that the court lacks statutory authority under § 46b-129 (a), “to adjudicate [a person] as neglected or uncared-for after his eighteenth birthday.  It necessarily follows that the trial court lacked statutory authority to provide [such person] with dispositional relief pursuant to § 46b-129 (j) . . . . [B]ecause the trial court lacked such authority, that court properly concluded that the [p]etitioner’s petition was rendered moot when he reached his eighteenth birthday.”  In re Jose B., supra, 303 Conn. 582 (emphasis added).  In Jessica M., the Court adopted the reasoning and result of the first case.  In re Jessica M., supra, 303 Conn. 587.

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