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In re of T.H.

August 3, 2006; as amended September 20, 2006


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DEL-1642-04) (Hon. Linda D. Turner, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge

Argued April 21, 2006

Before REID, KRAMER and FISHER, Associate Judges.

This case is related to In re R.K.S., No. 04-FS-1231, which we also decide today. T.H. and R.K.S. are brothers who were tried together and adjudicated in the Superior Court's Family Division - Juvenile Branch on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle ("UUV") and receiving stolen property ("RSP"). T.H. challenges his adjudication on three grounds: (1) the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to convict him of UUV and RSP; (2) the trial court erred by failing to compel the government to produce Jencks Act statements; and (3) both the trial court and the government failed to carry out their respective parens patriae roles. For the reasons stated in the "sufficiency of the evidence" section of the companion case, In re R.K.S., supra, we hold that the evidence presented by the government on the RSP charge was sufficient as a matter of law to sustain T.H.'s adjudication on the UUV and the RSP charges. In doing so, we conclude that the trial court made no reversible ruling under the Jencks Act, or the parens patriae doctrine.


In In re R.K.S., supra, we summarized the pertinent facts regarding R.K.S. and T.H.'s adjudication. We incorporate that factual summary into this opinion.


The Jencks Act Issue

T.H. contends that the trial court incorrectly "immediately ruled that nothing that was done in Maryland had to be produced as Jencks [Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500 (b)] material." The government asserts that "there was no dispute that there were no [Jencks Act] statements in the possession of the [District] government prosecutor that had not been provided to the trial court and turned over to T.H."

"Under the Jencks Act, the duty to produce materials attaches only to statements that are in [the government's] possession." Lyles v. United States, 879 A.2d 979, 983 (D.C. 2005) (alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). See also Frye v. United States, 600 A.2d 808, 810 (D.C. 1991) (The Jencks Act "is 'a limited statutory scheme which serves the concurrent purposes of aiding the search for truth by facilitating the impeachment of a witness who has given a statement to the government, while at the same time regulating access by the defense to materials and evidence within the government's possession.'") (quoting March v. United States, 362 A.2d 691, 698 (D.C. 1976)) (other citation omitted). In addition to the Jencks Act, Super. Ct. Juv. R. 26.2 also requires production of certain statements.*fn1 If the District government does not have possession of the requested statements, "the government is not obliged to produce [them]." Lyles, supra, 879 A.2d at 983 (citing Nelson v. United States, 649 A.2d 301, 308 (D.C. 1994)).

T.H. concedes in his brief that "[t]he only Jencks material in this case would have been produced in Maryland by the officers who testified in this case." In fact, only Maryland law enforcement officers testified, and none of these officers referenced any statements that had been turned over to the District's MPD or the prosecutor. Moreover, the District's prosecutor informed the trial court that he had taken no notes on his conversations with the Maryland State trooper or the Maryland detectives. Simply put, there is no showing on this record that the District had in its possession a "statement" within the meaning of the Jencks Act, or Super. Ct. Juv. R. 26.2, that "relate[d] to the subject matter of [any government] witness's direct testimony." Robinson v. United States, 825 A.2d 318, 326 (D.C. 2003)) (citing Frye, supra, 600 A.2d at 810) (internal quotation marks and other citations omitted). Hence, we hold that the trial court did not violate the Jencks Act.

The Parens Patriae Issue

T.H. contends that "[b]oth the government and the trial court ignored their obligations to [him] as parens patriae, and violated . . . statutory protections." Specifically, he faults the trial court for allowing a Maryland prosecutor to remain in the courtroom during T.H.'s trial even though the prosecutor "did not request permission on the record," and hence, he states, the cloak of confidentiality attached to juvenile proceedings was breached. In addition, he argues that the District failed to take him to the Director of Social Services within a reasonable period of time, and instead, left him in police custody. Moreover, he maintains that following his adjudication, the trial court imposed a "penalty" on him by immediately committing him to the custody of a District agency until age 21 and by sending him to the D.C. Jail. The District maintains that the trial court committed no reversible error, that the Maryland prosecutor had a "proper interest" in R.K.S.' and T.H.'s case, and that "a technical violation of [statutory] time limitations . . . doe[s] not require automatic dismissal."

The parens patriae concept connotes "the State's sovereign power of guardianship over minors and other persons under disability." In re J.J.Z., 630 A.2d 186, 193 n.12 (D.C. 1993) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In the District, both the trial court and the Attorney General, D.C. (formerly the Corporation Counsel, D.C.) "play the parens patriae role." In re P.D., 664 A.2d 337, 341 (D.C. 1995) (citing In re J.J.Z., supra, 630 A.2d at 194.) We have discussed and applied the parens patriae concept most often in termination of parental rights, adoption, and abuse and neglect cases. See, e.g., In re J.L., 884 A.2d 1072, 1079 (D.C. 2005) (In termination of parental rights cases, including the waiver of consent, the judge "acts as parens patriae on the child's behalf.") (citation omitted); In re A.H., 842 A.2d 674, 684 (D.C. 2004) (citing In re T.W., 732 A.2d 254, 258 (D.C. 1999)) ("The court acts in a neglect proceeding as parens patriae and has the paramount obligation and broad authority to protect the best interests of the child where the parent is unwilling or unable to do so.") (internal quotation marks omitted); In re S.G., 581 A.2d 771, 778 (D.C. 1990) ("Neglect statutes authorizing state intervention on a child's behalf are remedial, and they should be liberally construed to enable the court to carry out its obligations as parens patriae.") In a case involving assault with a deadly weapon, we reiterated that: "Parens patriae requires the juvenile court to do what is best for the child's care so long as this disposition provides adequate protection for society." In re L.J., 546 A.2d 429, 437 (D.C. 1988) (quoting Kent v. United States, 130 U.S. App. D.C. 343, 346, 401 F.2d 408, 411 (1968)) (emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Kent ...

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