T.T.H., aged 16, challenged a circuit court decision waiving his case into adult court on the grounds that: (1) the record did not show that the circuit court gave “paramount consideration” to the juvenile’s best interests, and (2) the circuit court failed to give sufficient consideration to T.T.H.’s suitability for the Serious Juvenile Offender program. Both challenges failed.
The briefs are confidential, so we don’t know what exactly T.T.H. argued. Judging from the court of appeals decision, the idea that the circuit court should have given “paramount consideration” to T.T.H.’s “best interests” lacked foundation in the law. It rested on two cases that were based on §48.01, which the legislature repealed and replaced with §938.01 in 1995. Section 938.01 lists 7 “equally important purposes” of Chapter 938, including (but not limited to) protecting the public from juvenile crime, holding juvenile offenders accountable for their acts, and responding to the juvenile’s needs for care and treatment consistent with the prevention of delinquency, the juvenile’s best interest, and protection of the public.
In other words, the legislature demoted the “best interests of the child” factor when it created the Juvenile Justice Code. Oddly, the court of appeals doesn’t cite any case for that proposition, even though State v. Hezzie R., 219 Wis. 2d 848, ¶57, ¶77, 580 N.w.2d 660 (1998) seems to be right on point.
According to the court of appeals, the circuit court did not give short shrift to the option of placing T.T.H. in the Serious Juvenile Offender program, a factor which must be considered per §938.18(5)(c). By law, the circuit court gets to decide how much weight to give each §938.18(5) factor, and it simply chose to weigh other factors more heavily.
¶25 . . . The trial court then concluded that, despite the availability of the juvenile programs, those programs did not outweigh the other factors and the other concerns that demonstrated that waiver was necessary. It explained that under the S.J.O., T.T.H. would only be subject to a maximum of five years: three years of incarceration, followed by two years of supervision. Considering the seriousness of the offenses and T.T.H.’s treatment needs, the trial court concluded that a five year period was not a sufficient time to address T.T.H.’s needs and to protect the public. The trial court then concluded that, “there was no question that clear and convincing evidence was shown and provided that it is contrary to the best interest of the public to hear this case in juvenile court.