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SCOW takes up appellate review of juvenile waiver decisions

State v. X.S., 2021AP419, review of an unpublished court of appeals opinion, granted 10/18/21, case activity


1. Whether the court of appeals erroneously exercised its discretion in denying “Xander’s” motion for reconsideration less than 24 hours after it was filed without any explanation?

2. Whether a juvenile who stipulates to the prosecutive merit of a delinquency petition is estopped from presenting any evidence to contradict factual averments in the petition even when those facts do not negate probable cause for the charged offense?

3. Whether the court of appeals erroneously applied the discretionary standard of review?

In connection with a shooting at Mayfair Mall, the State charged 15 year old “Xander” with 1 count of possession of a dangerous weapon and  8 counts of use of a dangerous weapon. The State petitioned the juvenile court to waive Xander into adult court. A Human Services Worker and an examiner recommended against the waiver, so the juvenile court denied the State’s petition.

The State appealed and the court of appeals reversed because it didn’t like how the juvenile court exercised its discretion. See our post here.  Xander filed a motion for reconsideration noting that the court of appeals made several legal errors in its decision. The court of appeals (or maybe just one of its clerks) immediately pressed the “denied” button, which spit out the customary form order that gives no reason for the decision.

In State v. Scott, 2018 WI 74,¶ 40, 382 Wis. 2d 476, 914 N.W.2d 141, SCOW held that when the court of appeals denies a motion for stay pending appeal it can’t just issue a 1-sentence “denied” order. It must explain its exercise of discretion.  Xander seeks to extend Scott‘s rule to orders on motions for reconsideration.

State v. Kleser, 2010 WI 88, ¶ 2, 328 Wis. 2d 42, 786 N.W.2d 144 held that a juvenile who stipulates to probable cause for 1st-degree intentional homicide at a preliminary hearing cannot introduce evidence to undermine the intent element of that offense.  In this case, the court of appeals seemed to think that when a juvenile stipulates to probable cause he stipulates to all of the facts alleged in the delinquency petition.

The court of appeals reviews a juvenile court’s waiver decision for an erroneous exercise of discretion. J.A.L. v. State, 162 Wis. 2d 940, 960, 471 N.W.2d 493 (1991). Over the past 21 years, juveniles have appealed decisions waiving them into adult court 32 times. In every case, the court of appeals applied the discretionary standard of review to affirm the lower court’s decision. This time the State lost, appealed, and won a reversal in an opinion that searched the record for reasons to reverse the juvenile rather than for reasons to affirm its decision. Hopefully, SCOW’s decision will clarify the proper application of the “erroneous exercise of discretion” standard of review.

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