Family Law (Juveniles): S.K. V. COMMONWEALTH (COA; 5/26/2006)

FAMILY LAW:  Juvenile court jurisdiction (KRS 610.010)  and restitution
DATE:  5/26/2006

As a matter of first impression, CA considered whether a juvenile court retains jurisdiction to enforce restitution orders when the party has turned eighteen and is no longer a minor. The Commonwealth argued that the juvenile court’s inherent powers of contempt and the fifteen year statute of limitations on judgments both prevented the lapse of restitution orders when the juvenile became an adult. CA disagreed, holding that KRS 610.010(13) limits juvenile court jurisdiction to minors.

“A court’s inherent contempt authority … does not confer jurisdiction. It merely arms the court to defend and carry out the jurisdiction it otherwise possesses. Where, as here, that jurisdiction does not extend to adults, neither does the court’s contempt authority.” Further, “nothing about the limitations statute prevents a juvenile court judgment from lapsing for lack of jurisdiction or implies that the General Assembly meant, although it failed to say, that restitution orders were to be excepted from the general rule that juvenile court dispositions lapse when the offender turns eighteen.”

CA acknowledged public policy arguments for extending the juvenile court’s jurisdiction to enforce the orders into adulthood, including the need to make victims whole and the likelihood that juveniles will “wait out” their judgments to escape responsibility for same as they become adults. “Although we acknowledge the force of these arguments, the fact remains that it is the General Assembly, not the courts, that determines public policy in this area, and the General Assembly has not fashioned a restitution exception to the general rule terminating juvenile court jurisdiction at eighteen.”

Digested, M. Eisenmenger Mapes

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