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Waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction affirmed

State v. C.W.P., 2022AP1240 & 2022AP1317, District 2, 12/14/22 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (2022AP1240; 2022AP1317)

The state filed two juvenile delinquency petitions regarding C.W.P. and petitioned for waiver of juvenile jurisdiction in both cases. The circuit court held joint waiver hearings after which it granted waiver. The court of appeals rejects C.W.P.’s challenges to the circuit court’s decision.

A challenge to a circuit court’s waiver decision under § 938.18 presents a steep uphill battle. Whether to waive juvenile court jurisdiction is committed to the sound discretion of the circuit court, and the circuit court’s decision will be reversed only if the record does not reflect a reasonable basis for the determination or there’s no “carefully delineated” statement in the record of the relevant facts or reasons explaining the determination. State v. X.S., 2022 WI 49, ¶25, 402 Wis. 2d 481, 976 N.W.2d 425; J.A.L. v. State, 162 Wis. 2d 940, 961, 471 N.W.2d 493 (1991).

This standard of review makes the court of appeals’ analysis a necessarily fact-intensive one. We won’t detail the facts of this case here but will instead summarize the essential holdings of the decision.

The court of appeals first rejects C.W.P.’s argument that the circuit court failed to make an “on the record” finding that the two petitions had prosecutive merit, which is a necessary threshold finding because § 938.18(4)(a) provides that the circuit court “shall determine whether the matter has prosecutive merit before proceeding to determine if it should waive jurisdiction. If the court determines that the matter does not have prosecutive merit, the court shall deny the petition for waiver.” Nothing in § 938.18(4)(a) requires a finding of prosecutive merit “on the record,” which stands in stark contrast to the requirement in § 938.18(6) that the court state “on the record” what it finds based on the waiver criteria. In any event, while it would have made things simpler if the circuit court had intoned the “magic words” of “prosecutive merit,” it’s clear from the record it found the two petitions did have prosecutive merit. (¶¶16-27).

Having concluded the circuit court found prosecutive merit, the court of appeals moves on to the circuit court’s consideration of the criteria for waiver under § 938.18(5). C.W.P. asserts the circuit court failed to address the adequacy and suitability of the juvenile justice and mental health systems in addressing his needs, § 938.18(5)(c), and, concomitantly, to state on the record its finding regarding this criterion. (¶¶14, 33). Based on the testimony of the witnesses at the waiver hearings and the circuit court’s findings of fact and decision regarding waiver based on those findings, the court of appeals concludes the circuit court both considered the criterion and explained on the record how that criterion related to its waiver decision. (¶¶31-43).

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