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Juvenile Delinquency Disposition – Expelled Student; Supervisory Writs; Statutory Construction Principle – Titles

Madison Metropolitan School District v. Circuit Court for Dane County, 2011 WI 72, affirming summary order; case activity

Juvenile Delinquency Disposition – Expelled Student

A juvenile delinquency court lacks authority to order a school district to provide educational services to a delinquent whom the district has expelled.

¶5   We conclude:

(2)  A circuit court does not have statutory authority to order a school district to provide alternative educational services to a juvenile who has been expelled from school by a lawful and unchallenged expulsion order but is still residing in the community.

(a)  Wisconsin Stat. § 120.12(18) requires a school board to cooperate with the juvenile court and the agency designated by the court to prepare an educational plan under Wis. Stat. § 938.33(1)(e) for a pupil or former pupil who is subject to a dispositional order under Wis. Stat. § 938.34 or Wis. Stat. § 938.355.

(b)  Wisconsin Stat. § 120.12(18) requires a school district to “[c]oordinate and provide for continuity of educational programming” for pupils receiving educational services as the result of a court order under Wis. Stat. § 938.34(7d).

(c)  Wisconsin Stat. § 120.12(18) does not require a school board or a school district to provide alternative educational resources to a juvenile who has been expelled from school under Wis. Stat. § 120.13(1)(c)1.

(d)  Wisconsin Stat. § 938.34(7d) authorizes a circuit court to order a juvenile to attend a variety of educational programs, but it does not authorize a circuit court to order a school district to create an educational program or contract for an educational program.

¶73  In sum, we conclude that a circuit court does not have statutory authority to order a school district to provide alternative educational resources to a juvenile who has been expelled from school by a lawful and unchallenged expulsion order.  This conclusion applies longstanding Wisconsin law and is in accord with decisions by courts in several other jurisdictions.[14]

The dissent sees the majority as failing to acknowledge the broad grant of authority under the Juvenile Justice Code:

¶93  In enacting the 1996 Juvenile Justice Code,[20] the legislature explicitly conveyed its intent to give circuit courts ample authority to issue dispositions to effectuate the Code’s purposes, one of which is to “equip juvenile offenders with competencies to live responsibly and productively.”[21] This includes the circuit court’s authority to craft appropriate dispositional orders from “a myriad of alternatives” to carry out a primary objective of the Juvenile Justice Code: rehabilitation.[22] The Code explicitly authorizes the circuit court to plan for and organize the provision of educational services to a juvenile adjudged delinquent.[23] The Juvenile Justice Code also puts emphasis on accountability and protection of the public.[24]

¶94  The majority diminishes the significant effect that the 1996 Juvenile Justice Code had on a circuit court’s authority when exercising its juvenile court jurisdiction.  The majority errs in concluding that “the dispute here boils down to whether the legislature has modified the statutes so that expulsion today does not mean the same as it meant in the past . . .”——in other words, that the Juvenile Justice Code of 1996 did not serve to expand the circuit court’s authority. Majority op., ¶39.  I take issue with the majority’s failure to recognize that the 1996 Juvenile Justice Code effected a sea change in circuit courts’ authority when exercising their juvenile court jurisdiction.

The net effect, then, is to inhibit the delivery of community-based educational services to those likely need them most.

Supervisory Writs

¶74  A supervisory writ is “a blending of the writ of mandamus and the writ of prohibition.”  Dressler, 163 Wis. 2d at 630.  Like those extraordinary writs, a supervisory writ is dedicated to the discretion of the court of original jurisdiction.  Id.

¶75  A writ of mandamus has long been recognized as “a summary, drastic, and extraordinary writ issued in the sound discretion of the court” to direct a public officer to perform his plain statutory duties.  Menzl v. City of Milwaukee, 32 Wis. 2d 266, 275-76, 145 N.W.2d 198 (1966) (internal quotations and citations omitted).  Because of the extraordinary nature of this discretionary power, the officer’s duty must be clear and unequivocal.  Id. at 276.

¶76  A writ of prohibition, on the other hand, is traditionally used “to keep an inferior court from acting outside its jurisdiction when there was no adequate remedy by appeal or otherwise.”  State ex rel. Gaynon v. Krueger, 31 Wis. 2d 609, 614, 143 N.W.2d 437 (1966).  The writ of prohibition also is considered an extraordinary remedy, and is to be issued only “with great caution and forbearance, for the furtherance of justice and to secure order and regularity in judicial proceedings.”  State ex rel. Kowaleski v. District Court of Milwaukee Cnty., 254 Wis. 363, 372, 36 N.W.2d 419 (1949) (quoting 42 Am. Jur. Prohibition, § 6) (overruled on other grounds by State ex rel. Jackson v. Coffey, 18 Wis. 2d 529, 537, 118 N.W.2d 939 (1963).

The court recites with approval the 5-factor Dressler test for granting a supervisory writ petition, ¶77. Why this detour into appellate procedure? The school district appealed the order that it provide educational services, and the court of appeals helpfully “construed the District’s appeal as a petition for a supervisory writ,” ¶25. The court now ratifies this action, ¶¶78-90. Hard to say just why an appeal wouldn’t have been adequate to the task. See dissent, ¶¶117-20. But maybe the court of appeals will pay you the same sort of favor some day.

Statutory Construction Principle – Titles

¶66 n. 12:

Wisconsin Stat. § 990.001(6) reads: “STATUTE TITLES AND HISTORY NOTES.  The titles to subchapters, sections, subsections, paragraphs and subdivisions of the statutes and history notes are not part of the statutes.”  However, courts often examine titles and history notes because they provide valuable clues to the meaning of statutory text.

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