Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-8-03378-8. Date filed: 05/10/95. Judge signing: Hon. Michael S. Spearman.
Petition for Review Denied September 3, 1997,
Authored by William W. Baker. Concurring: Susan R. Agid, Ronald E. Cox.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baker
BAKER, C.J. - Mark Bevins, a juvenile, appeals his conviction for second degree arson. He argues that the State did not establish the court's jurisdiction and produced insufficient evidence to prove he acted maliciously. He also argues that the late entered findings and Conclusions were tailored, and warrant reversal. Finally, he argues that the statute providing for manifest inJustice Dispositions is unconstitutional, and the court's manifest inJustice finding was error. We accept the late entered findings and Conclusions and hold that sufficient evidence was presented and the court's jurisdiction was established. We further hold that the manifest inJustice statute is constitutional and that the court's manifest inJustice ruling was not erroneous.
Bevins argues two issues regarding his manifest inJustice Disposition.
The essence of Bevins's first argument is that the statute allowing manifest inJustice Dispositions has been rendered unconstitutional by subsequent case law. He asserts that the due process protections provided by the early Supreme Court case interpreting the statute *fn1 have been removed by various Court of Appeals and Supreme Court opinions. Second, Bevins argues that some of the reasons given by the trial court (1) do not justify its finding that a standard range Disposition would constitute a manifest inJustice, and (2) are not supported by the record.
State v. Rhodes was the first opinion of the Supreme Court to consider a direct, constitutional challenge to the manifest inJustice statute on grounds of vagueness. The court rejected the challenge, concluding that the statement of legislative purpose for the Juvenile Justice Act, *fn2 together with various other statutory standards, prevented arbitrary and discriminatory application of the manifest inJustice exception. Bevins 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 that 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.
Bevin'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 pointed out that the applicable statute did not require separate, written findings in support of a manifest inJustice determination. However, this court noted 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 ...