June 4, 2008

L.H. v. Schwarzenegger Settles

A settlement was reached on June 4, 2008, between the California Division of Juvenile Justice and juvenile parolees in L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, a federal class action lawsuit alleging widespread violation of youths’ constitutional rights.  The suit was brought by two San Francisco law firms, Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP and Bingham McCutchen, and the Youth Law Center.

The L.H. suit charged that lengthy parole holds are routinely imposed without proper or timely notice to the juveniles of the reasons for the detention. Juvenile parolees were not informed of the precise charges against them until they had been in custody for weeks or months, and often the charges would change late in the process. The suit charged that in the vast majority of revocations, DJJ denied juveniles the right to have witnesses testify on their behalf, to present evidence to defend or mitigate the charges, or to have an attorney. The suit also charged that DJJ failed to provide accommodations mandated under federal law for those youths suffering from mental or physical disabilities.

Elements of the settlement agreement include:

  • Attorneys will be appointed for every juvenile parolee who has been charged with a violation of parole within 8 business days of the parole hold.
  • Juveniles will receive a preliminary probable cause hearing within 13 business days of the parole hold.
  • If there is probable cause to hold the youth, the juveniles will receive a full revocation hearing within 35 calendar days of the parole hold.
  • Juveniles will have the right to present evidence and witnesses at their probable cause and revocation hearings.
  • Clear policies will be developed that spell out which behavior warrants revocation of parole or a return to a DJJ facility.
  • Youth who are not revoked will be released promptly and DJJ will end a policy of “temporary detention” for youth continued on parole.
  • Juveniles cannot be returned to DJJ for more than a year, and a revocation cannot be extended beyond a year, except for cases of serious in-custody misconduct.
  • Accommodations for mental and physical disabilities and for effective communications, including language translation for non-English speakers, will be provided at all stages of the parole revocation process.
  • Youth will no longer be automatically shackled during revocation proceedings and policies will be developed to govern when and how a youth is restrained.
  • A prompt administrative appeal system that includes the appointment of attorneys.

The settlement also comes after federal Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled in January 2008 that DJJ was violating juvenile parolees’ due process rights in parole hearings, and ordered that attorneys be appointed to represent “each and every” DJJ parolee in revocation proceedings. Judge Karlton also ruled that DJJ was violating federal disability laws by not providing interpreters and other accommodations to assure that youth can understand and participate in parole revocation hearings.

The final order:
Stipulated Order for Permanent Injunctive Relief