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In re Nathaniel M.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

November 7, 2014

IN RE INTEREST OF NATHANIEL M., A CHILD UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE. NEBRASKA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF NEBRASKA AND NATHANIEL M., APPELLEES

Page 581

Appeals from the County Court for Madison County: ROSS A. STOFFER, Judge.

Appeals dismissed.

Neleigh N. Boyer, Special Assistant Attorney General, for appellant.

Gail Collins, Deputy Madison County Attorney, for appellee State of Nebraska.

Brad Ewalt, of Ewalt Law Office, for appellee Nathaniel M.

WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ. HEAVICAN, C.J., not participating.

OPINION

Page 582

[289 Neb. 431] Per Curiam.

In these consolidated appeals, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) appeals from orders of the county court for Madison County, sitting as a juvenile court, which committed a 13-year-old juvenile to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC) in Kearney, Nebraska. At issue is whether the court had the authority under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-286(1)(b)(i) (Supp. 2013) to so commit the juvenile when he was under the age of 14 years. The Office of Juvenile Services (OJS) initially refused to accept the juvenile, but was ordered by the court to do so. OJS then accepted him but quickly discharged him, causing the appeals before us to become moot. The Department asks us to decide the statutory issue presented under the public [289 Neb. 432] interest exception to the doctrine of mootness. For the reasons discussed, we decline to do so and dismiss the appeals.

BACKGROUND

Nathaniel M., born in May 2000, is the subject of three juvenile proceedings in the county court for Madison County. The first, which is our case No. S-13-1066, originated on June 29, 2012, with the filing of a petition alleging that Nathaniel was a juvenile as defined by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(1) and (3)(b) (Reissue 2008), based in part on allegations of assault and criminal mischief. Nathaniel admitted the allegations in the petition, and at an August 30 disposition hearing, he was committed to OJS for placement at the foster or group home level.

Case No. S-13-1067 originated on May 8, 2013, when a petition was filed in York County, Nebraska, alleging that Nathaniel stole property worth more than $1,500 and operated another's vehicle without consent.

Page 583

Nathaniel admitted to the theft, and the other allegation was dismissed. The case was then transferred to Madison County. On July 29, Nathaniel was committed to OJS.

Case No. S-13-1068 originated on September 19, 2013, when a petition was filed in Madison County alleging Nathaniel exercised control over the movable property of another worth $500 or more with the intent to deprive them thereof. The petition was later amended to add allegations of theft by receiving stolen property and criminal mischief. A day after this petition was filed, the State moved for a higher level of placement for Nathaniel with respect to the two prior pending juvenile cases.

A hearing on all three cases was held on November 12, 2013. In the first two cases, the hearing addressed the State's motion for a higher level of placement. In the third case, the hearing was a pretrial hearing. At this hearing, Nathaniel admitted to certain allegations in the third case. A caseworker employed by the Department testified that Nathaniel was a flight risk, that he posed a risk to himself and others, that no disposition less restrictive than commitment to the YRTC would suffice to meet his needs, and that such commitment ...


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