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State v. George

February 24, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
WASSENA L. GEORGE, B.D. 04-29-81, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-8-04470-2. Date filed: 03/07/96. Judge signing: Hon. Norma S. Huggins.

PER CURIAM - The appellant seeks to modify a commissioner's ruling affirming the appellant's manifest inJustice Disposition on all issues other than her challenge to the continuing constitutional validity of the manifest inJustice Disposition authorized by the Juvenile Justice Act. The Commissioner referred that to this panel. We affirm the trial court and deny the motion to modify.

George argues that the statutory authorization of manifest inJustice Dispositions has been rendered unconstitutional by cases decided since the Supreme Court upheld the statute's constitutionality in State v. Rhodes. *fn1 In Rhodes the court rejected the constitutional challenge, concluding that the statement of legislative purposes for the Juvenile Justice Act, *fn2 together with various other statutory standards, prevented arbitrary and discriminatory application of the manifest inJustice exception. George is correct that since Rhodes was decided, some of the factors listed by that court in support of its holding have been modified by subsequent decisions. However, these decisions have not destroyed or seriously impaired the essence of the protections which still prevent arbitrary and discriminatory application of the manifest inJustice exception.

In State v. Rice *fn3 the Supreme Court acknowledged that the duration of a manifest inJustice Disposition was no longer limited to the maximum period of confinement and supervision to which an adult may be sentenced, based upon a later statute restricting the applicability of general criminal provisions to the juvenile Justice system. *fn4 The court nevertheless concluded that the change did not render the manifest inJustice exception void for vagueness.

George's characterization of other decisions as abandonments of some of the other basic due process protections built into manifest inJustice procedures is overstated. In State v. E.J.H., *fn5 for example, this court noted that the applicable statute did not require separate, written findings in support of a manifest inJustice determination. However, this court pointed out that the Disposition court must set forth its reasons. Those reasons must be supported in the record, and must clearly and convincingly support the Conclusion. That is sufficient for meaningful appellate review.

.

E.J.H. did not discard the need for specification of the portions of the record relevant to the Disposition. The Disposition order referred to and thereby incorporated the oral ruling of the court. That ruling revealed the portions of the record material to the Disposition. Moreover, the written findings plainly identified the relevant portions of the record.

Nor did State v. N.E. *fn6 discard the requirement that the Disposition Judge consider mitigating factors. This court rejected an argument that the court was required to formally state that it had done so when the record was clear that the court had. The Judge stated that she had carefully reviewed the written report of the probation counselor, which discussed the pertinent mitigation factors urged by N.E.

The due process protections necessary to the validity of the manifest inJustice exception remain. They are not dependent upon formulistic or rote recitations in the record that necessary procedures have been rigidly followed. Rather, they are found in the essence of the statutes and cases that address the manifest inJustice exception. Our careful review of them leads us to conclude that the necessary protections are still in place to prevent the arbitrary or discriminatory application of the manifest inJustice exception, and to ensure meaningful appellate review.

As to appellant's motion to modify the commissioner's ruling, a panel of this court has considered the matter pursuant to RAP 17.7 and has determined that the motion should be denied.

The motion to modify is denied and the manifest inJustice ...


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