Argued: February 28, 2019
from the Kosciusko Superior Court 1, No. 43D01-1708-JD-292
The Honorable David C. Cates, Judge
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Cara Schaefer Wieneke Joel C. Wieneke
Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR AMICI CURIAE JUVENILE LAW CENTER AND NATIONAL
JUVENILE DEFENDER CENTER Amy Karozos, Greenwood, Indiana
L. Levick Juvenile Law Center Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
Stephen R. Creason Angela N. Sanchez Lee M. Stoy, Jr. Deputy
Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana
Justice Rush and Justices David and Massa concur.
Justice Slaughter concurs in judgment with separate opinion.
than half a century ago, the Supreme Court of the United
States avowed that a child's right to counsel is neither
"a formality" nor "a grudging gesture to a
ritualistic requirement," but rather "the essence
of justice." Kent v. United States, 383 U.S.
541, 561 (1966). Since then the settled law has been that
children enjoy a constitutional due process right to the
effective assistance of counsel during juvenile delinquency
remains unsettled, however, on the standard to evaluate
claims from children alleging ineffective assistance of
counsel. Here, A.M. asserts that his attorney rendered him
ineffective assistance during a disposition-modification
hearing. Reflecting the uncertainty in the law, A.M. and the
State offer two competing standards for deciding the
claim-one founded in the Sixth Amendment's right to
counsel for a criminal proceeding and one founded in the
Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause.
today that a due process standard governs a child's claim
that he received ineffective assistance in a
disposition-modification hearing during his delinquency
proceedings. In assessing these claims, we consider
counsel's overall performance and determine whether that
performance ensured the child received a fundamentally fair
hearing resulting in a disposition serving his best
interests. Given the facts of this case, A.M. has failed to
demonstrate he received ineffective assistance of counsel, so
we affirm the trial court.
and Procedural History
June 2002, A.M. has a long history with the juvenile justice
system. At the age of ten, he had already committed three
delinquent acts amounting to Class D felony battery with
bodily injury if committed by an adult. He attended an
alternative schooling program for several years, where he
received special education and outpatient services for an
emotional disability. During his time at the school, A.M.
received multiple suspensions and several referrals to the
juvenile court for fighting, violence against school staff,
destruction of property, and possession of marijuana.
Eventually, the school expelled him for "fail[ing] to
comply," finding no relationship between his behavior
and his disability and only slight progress in his outpatient
program. Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 128.
2017, A.M. and his friends approached a younger boy at the
Kosciusko County fairgrounds, forcing him into an abandoned
tent so that A.M. could fight him. A.M. beat the other boy
and kicked him repeatedly in the head while he was down,
leaving him with severe injuries requiring medical treatment.
A.M. later threatened the boy with a text message stating,
"You better not tell the cops about this."
Id. at 15, 53-54.
incident ultimately led to a true finding of disorderly
conduct, a Class B misdemeanor if committed by an adult. The
juvenile court placed A.M. on supervised probation until the
age of eighteen. But in the months that followed, he
consistently failed to abide by the terms of his
probation-leaving home without permission, threatening his
family, skipping school, staying out past curfew, spending
time with another juvenile delinquent, and missing his
mental-health evaluations. Police also suspected his
involvement in the burglary of a classmate's home.
his actions posed a danger to others, and out of concern for
A.M.'s safety and best interests, the probation
department recommended his placement with the Department of
Correction (DOC). In its modification report, the probation
department also opined that placement in the DOC would ensure
A.M. received the necessary education and services.
a modification hearing in February 2018, A.M.'s counsel,
who had defended the juvenile against past delinquency
allegations, negotiated with the prosecutor to redact certain
allegations from the Petition to Modify, including
allegations that A.M. committed unrelated acts constituting
residential burglary and theft of a handgun if committed by
an adult. A.M.'s counsel also prevented A.M. from having
to admit allegations that he consumed alcohol on the school
bus. A.M. did, however, admit to allegations that he battered
a random boy at the bus stop and that he committed various
status offenses. A.M.'s counsel also made the following
statement to the court:
I am befuddled by the action of [A.M.]. I think he's a
good kid. I think he's got a bright future ahead of him.
He's smart, has some real opportunities, but the path
he's going down is leading him to prison and he's
just going to end up wallowing away there, probably spend
most of his life there. You don't break into people's
houses, you don't steal guns, don't follow the rules,
get kicked out of school. You don't get an education and
that's going to end up being his downfall. I think except
for being kicked out of Gateway, he could have had an
opportunity here. He could have been on home detention and
shown everybody that he could do right. Instead he's
going to go to the DOC, go to Logansport for an evaluation,
do his six months, eight months or a year, as long he does
right, and hopefully will come back and have learned a
lesson. I have a lot of hope for [A.M.]. I hope he
understands that what's going to happen here is not a
punishment but rather a chance to get a leg up in life and
try to do the right thing. I hope he does good, and when he
comes back he can really grow and be a good kid.
Tr. pp. 6-7.
adopting the probation department's recommendation, the
juvenile court committed fifteen-year-old A.M. to ...