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State v. Buckley

October 4, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
LISA J. BUCKLEY, APPELLANT.



Superior Court of Thurston County. Superior Court Docket No. 94-8-00119-1. Date Filed In Superior Court: July 6, 1994. Superior Court Judge Signing: Hon. Richard A. Strophy.

Written By: J. Dean Morgan, J. Concurred IN By: Karen G. Seinfeld, C.j., Carroll C. Bridgewater, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morgan

MORGAN, J. -- After judging Lisa J. Buckley to be an "at-risk youth" under the Family Reconciliation Act (FRA), RCW 13.32A, a juvenile court entered an order requiring Buckley to abide by ten rules. Buckley repeatedly violated the order and was convicted of two counts of criminal contempt. She appeals, arguing the court exceeded its statutory authority and violated double jeopardy. We reverse.

Buckley is a juvenile. On May 6, 1993, when she was 13, her mother filed a petition asking the Thurston County Juvenile Court to supervise her as an "at-risk youth" under the Family Reconciliation Act. On May 12, a commissioner granted the petition and entered an order requiring, among other things, that Buckley attend school, come home after school unless permitted by her mother to do otherwise, obey an 8:00 p.m. curfew Sunday through Thursday, obtain her mother's permission before leaving the house, and not run away from home. The order warned that "[a] party who fails to comply with the terms of this order may be found in contempt." *fn1

Between May 28 and October 4, 1993, Buckley's mother filed multiple contempt motions alleging that Buckley had violated the court's order. Each time, a juvenile court commissioner found Buckley in contempt based on specific instances of past conduct. The commissioner also imposed sanctions that he asserted were remedial, including community service and home detention. The State did not file criminal contempt charges.

On October 20, 1993, a court commissioner appointed a special prosecutor whose assignment was to file criminal contempt charges against Buckley. On the same day, Buckley's mother filed a contempt motion alleging that Buckley had left home on October 5, had not returned until October 14, and had skipped school from October 5 to October 15.

On November 30, 1993, a superior court Judge considered the motion and found Buckley in contempt. The court imposed seven days home detention. It also ordered Buckley to follow all prior court orders and "have perfect attendance at school for [the] next 5 days." *fn2

Within a short time, Buckley's mother filed two additional contempt motions. The first alleged that Buckley had skipped school on December 4, 1993. The second alleged that Buckley had been suspended from school on December 7, 1993.

On February 2, 1994, a commissioner considered these motions and found Buckley in contempt. The commissioner did not impose sanctions, but again ordered the special prosecutor to file criminal charges. The special prosecutor did so, and the Thurston County Prosecutor later took control of the case.

On June 28, 1994, the State filed a third amended information charging Buckley with three counts of criminal contempt under RCW 7.21.010 and RCW 7.21.040. The trial court dismissed Count I, and that ruling has not been appealed. Count II alleged that Buckley had violated the court's orders by leaving home without authority on October 14, 1993. Count III alleged that Buckley had violated the court's orders by skipping school on October 5, October 15, and December 4, 1993. Each count sought sanctions in accordance with RCW 13.32A.250(3), RCW 7.21, and RCW 13.40.

On July 6, 1994, based on stipulated facts, the court found Buckley guilty on Counts II and III. After sentencing, Buckley filed this appeal.

Generally, Washington's contempt statutes are set forth in RCW 7.21. Under RCW 7.21.010(1)(b), it is contempt for a person to intentionally disobey a lawful court order. *fn3 Under RCW 7.21.040(2)(a), a court may impose a punitive sanction if the prosecuting or city attorney files an information that "recites the punitive sanction sought to be imposed." *fn4 A sanction is punitive, and thus criminal rather than civil, if it is imposed to punish a past contempt of court, results in a determinate sentence, and does not afford the defendant an opportunity to purge the contempt by performing the acts required in the original order. *fn5 A sanction is remedial, and thus civil rather than criminal, if imposed to coerce an act "yet in the person's power to perform," and the person can purge the contempt simply by performing the act required. *fn6

Additional contempt provisions are found in the Family Reconciliation Act, RCW 13.32A. RCW 13.32A.250 provides in part:

(2) Failure by a party to comply with an order entered under this chapter is a contempt of court as provided in chapter 7.21 RCW, subject to the ...


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