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Supreme Court Reverses and Remands Dismissal of PCR Complaint

In In re D.C., Juvenile, 2016 VT 72 (June 24, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court reversed and remanded the superior court’s order that dismissed petitioner’s PCR complaint.

Issue: Petitioner was adjudicated delinquent in 2012 on a simple assault charge. He was fourteen at the time, and was placed on probation until his eighteenth birthday (March 24, 2015). On March 23 of that year, he filed a PCR petition, arguing that his change-of-plea hearing was “constitutionally inadequate.” The State moved to dismiss, arguing that a PCR proceeding was not available in delinquency cases under 13 V.S.A. §7131, and that petitioner could only seek post-conviction review under 33 V.S.A. §7131. The superior court granted the State’s motion, and petitioner appealed, arguing that his case was not moot and that the PCR statutes allow juveniles to collaterally attack their adjudications.

Holding: The Court found that petitioner’s case was not moot under In re Chandler, 2013 VT 10, 193 Vt. 246, 67 A.3d 261. While the state argued that the Chandler rule should not apply to juvenile delinquency proceedings, the Court determined that the adverse collateral consequences of a juvenile adjudication are serious enough to render PCRs and direct appeals brought by juveniles live controversies, even if they are not brought until the juvenile reaches majority or is no longer in state custody. The Court also found that petitioner and other juveniles can challenge delinquency adjudications under the PCR statute. The Court interpreted the PCR statute broadly and was hesitant to hold that habeas corpus, but not PCR, applies in delinquency adjudication reviews. Since Vermont’s PCR statute is meant to streamline procedure and not restrict habeas rights, requiring this type of issue to be exclusively raised in a habeas proceeding would be inconsistent with the reforms behind Vermont’s PCR statute. The Court finally found that the availability of PCR relief was not “impliedly eliminated” by 33 V.S.A. §5113, holding that the Legislature intended 13 V.S.A. §7131 and 33 V.S.A. §5113 to be “interpreted harmoniously.” In coming to this conclusion, the Court noted that it is the general practice in Vermont to assume remedies are cumulative, absent an explicit statement to the contrary. The Court also noted that in construing statutes, it generally presumes that “no repeal by implication is intended.”

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