Argued October 24, 2013
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (DEL-1624-12). (Hon. Diana Harris Epps, Magistrate Judge). (Hon. Jennifer Di Toro, Reviewing Judge).
Alec Karakatsanis, Public Defender Service, with whom James Klein and Sandra K. Levick, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.
John J. Woykovsky, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Rosalyn C. Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee, District of Columbia.
Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, FISHER, Associate Judge, and REID, Senior Judge.
Fisher, Associate Judge.
Appellant M.H., a juvenile, was shackled in waist, wrist, and ankle chains during his initial hearing. He asserts tat it is unconstitutional to use such restraints in the courtroom without an individualized determination that they are necessary. Because M.H. pled guilty, was sentenced, and has completed his probation, this appeal is now moot as to him. This issue undoubtedly will arise in other cases, but the present record is inadequate to permit a well-founded decision, and we exercise our discretion to dismiss this appeal.
I. Factual Background
On August 21, 2012, appellant M.H. was brought to court for an initial hearing in handcuffs, waist shackles, and leg irons; he asked that the shackles be removed unless the District of Columbia could show an individualized need for such restraints. Magistrate Judge Epps denied M.H.'s motion, concluding that the shackles would not interfere with his ability to communicate with his attorney. She announced that she would " stop, pass and I'll even step [him] back so you can talk to [him] quietly if that need be." With respect to issues of safety and security, Magistrate Judge Epps deferred to the policies of the U.S. Marshals Service and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). Pursuant to D.C. Fam. Ct. R. D (e)(1) and D.C. Code § 11-1732 (k) (2012 Repl.), on August 23, 2012, appellant moved for expedited review of Magistrate Judge Epps's order denying his Motion to Remove Shackles. That task was assigned to Judge Jennifer Di Toro.
After a few weeks at a DYRS shelter, M.H. was released to his mother. On October 2, 2012, he pled guilty to three charges as part of a plea agreement and, on October 24, 2012, Judge Robert Rigsby sentenced M.H. to one year of probation. During the plea colloquy, no mention was made of the pending review of Magistrate Judge Epps's decision on shackling. See Super. Ct. Juv. R. 11 (a)(2) (" With the approval of the Court and the consent of the government, a respondent may enter a plea of guilty reserving in writing the right to appeal the adverse determination of any specified pretrial motion." ).
On February 8, 2013, Judge Di Toro held that " [t]here is no individualized determination of necessity requirement for the use of physical restraints outside the presence of the jury in the District of Columbia, for adults or for juveniles." M.H. appealed that ruling, claiming that his constitutional rights were violated and asserting in his brief that " blanket child-shackling policies are 'repugnant,' 'degrading,' and 'humiliating.'" Quoting In re Amendments to the Fla. Rules of Juvenile Procedure, 26 So.3d 552, 556 (Fla. 2009). M.H.'s counsel has represented that his client " flinched" when told that he would be shackled in the courtroom, a reaction which counsel claims was " an indication of . . . confusion, humiliation, and embarrassment."
II. The Right to an Individualized ...