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State v. T.D.R.

February 06, 1998

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
T.D.R.



On appeal of right pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-30(1) of an unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, vacating an order entered on 7 February 1997 by LaBarre, J., in Superior Court, Durham County. On 8 May 1997, the Supreme Court allowed discretionary review of additional issues. Heard in the Supreme Court 14 October 1997. Michael F. Easley, Attorney General, by Gail E. Weis, Assistant Attorney General, for the State.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mitchell, Chief Justice.

By juvenile petitions filed 22 August 1996, defendant, then fifteen years old, was alleged to be delinquent by reason of his having committed first-degree rape and first-degree burglary. A hearing was held pursuant to N.C.G.S. §§ 7A-608 and -609 in District Court, Durham County, on 3 December 1996 before the Honorable Carolyn D. Johnson, District Court Judge. Defendant waived his right to present evidence and stipulated that probable cause did exist. Defendant then requested a two-week continuance in order that independent psychological evaluations could be performed and offered as evidence concerning the issue of whether his case should be transferred to Superior Court for his trial as an adult. The District Court denied the continuance and then proceeded to take evidence on the question of transfer. At the conclusion of the hearing, the District Court entered an order finding probable cause as to both rape and burglary and transferring jurisdiction over defendant to Superior Court for defendant's trial as an adult.

On 16 December 1996, defendant was indicted by the grand jury of Durham County for first-degree rape and first-degree burglary. Subsequently, on 21 January 1997, defendant was indicted for first- degree kidnapping.

On 15 January 1997, defendant filed a motion in Superior Court, Durham County, to dismiss the indictments against him and to remand jurisdiction of his case to the Juvenile District Court. On 24 January 1997, a hearing on defendant's motion to dismiss was held in the Superior Court, Durham County, before the Honorable David Q. LaBarre. On 29 January 1997, defendant filed an amended motion to dismiss. On 7 February 1997, the Superior Court entered an order making findings and concluding inter alia that "he District Court . . . denied the Juvenile-Defendant Due Process of law and fundamental fairness by its refusal to hear or consider the juvenile's evidence with regard to the appropriateness of retaining jurisdiction in the District Court Division." The order went on to vacate and dismiss the indictments against defendant and to remand jurisdiction to the District Court for a new hearing as to whether the District Court should retain jurisdiction or transfer jurisdiction over the juvenile to the Superior Court.

On 10 February 1997, the State filed a petition in the Superior Court, Durham County, for a temporary stay of its 7 February 1997 order. On 13 February 1997, the State filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeals. On 19 February 1997, the State filed in the Court of Appeals a petition for writ of supersedeas and motion for temporary stay. A temporary stay was entered by the Court of Appeals on 27 February 1997. On 28 February 1997, the Superior Court entered an order concluding that it lacked jurisdiction because of the filing of the notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals and denying the State's motion for reconsideration.

On 10 March 1997, the State filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Court of Appeals. On 26 March 1997, the Court of Appeals entered an order as follows:

Because orders of the district court transferring the jurisdiction over a juvenile to superior court pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-608 (1995) are subject to review only by [the Court of Appeals] after entry of a final judgment by the superior court, the superior court is without authority to review transfer orders. The order entered 7 February 1997 by Judge David Q. LaBarre, reviewing the district court's order transferring jurisdiction over the juvenile to the superior court, is hereby vacated. The matter is remanded to Superior Court, Durham County, for reinstatement of the indictments dismissed in that order and for further proceedings.

(Citation omitted.)

Defendant filed a notice of appeal of right with this Court asserting that this case directly involves a substantial constitutional question. His petition for discretionary review as to additional issues was allowed by this Court on 8 May 1997.

Defendant contends on this appeal that the Superior Court had authority under N.C.G.S. § 15A-954 to review the indictments against him and to dismiss them if it found that defendant's constitutional rights had been "flagrantly violated and there is such irreparable prejudice to the defendant's preparation of his case that there is no remedy but to dismiss the prosecution." Before we can address this argument directly, however, it is necessary that we first address the order of the Court of Appeals which is before us.

Defendant expressly based his motion in the Superior Court to dismiss the criminal charges against him upon the authority of N.C.G.S. § 15A-954, and the Superior Court entered its order dismissing the indictments on the authority of this statute. Nevertheless, the order of the Court of Appeals vacating the order of the Superior Court did not address the issue of the Superior Court's authority to review indictments. Instead, the Court of Appeals addressed the question of whether the Superior Court had authority to directly review District Court orders transferring jurisdiction over juveniles pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-608. The Court of Appeals held that such orders are subject to review only by the Court of Appeals and only after entry of a final judgment by the Superior Court on the criminal charges against the defendant who is to be tried as an adult. This issue was not before the Court of Appeals and is before this Court only by virtue of the appeal from the order of the Court of Appeals addressing the issue. Nevertheless, we must first address this issue before reaching the issues addressed by the parties.

Although the Court of Appeals followed its own precedents, it erred in holding that it is only after the entry of a final judgment by the Superior Court in a criminal case against a juvenile that the juvenile may appeal the earlier order of the District Court transferring jurisdiction. We conclude that N.C.G.S. § 7A-666 authorizes an immediate direct appeal to the Court of Appeals of a juvenile transfer order. The statute expressly provides:

Upon motion of a proper party as defined in G.S. 7A-667, review of any final order of the court in a juvenile matter under this Article shall be before the Court of Appeals. . . . A final order shall include:

(2)Any order which in effect determines the action and prevents a judgment from which appeal might be taken[.]

N.C.G.S. § 7A-666(2) (1995). Because the juvenile transfer order terminates the jurisdiction of the District Court by transferring jurisdiction to the Superior Court, a juvenile transfer order entered by the District Court is a final order within the meaning of the statute. The transfer order in effect "determines" the District Court juvenile proceeding and prevents any further judgment of the District Court from which appeal might be taken. Although upon entry of a transfer order the Superior Court obtains jurisdiction over the case for trial and related matters, it does not have authority to conduct an appellate review of the District Court transfer order. Proper appellate jurisdiction lies with the Court of Appeals--not with the Superior Court--for direct appellate review of District Court orders transferring jurisdiction over juveniles to the Superior Court.

That part of the order of the Court of Appeals concluding that appellate jurisdiction to directly review juvenile transfers lies only with the Court of Appeals was correct. However, we find no authority for the Court of Appeals' Conclusion in its order that juvenile transfer petitions entered by the District Court pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-608 are subject to appellate review by the Court of Appeals only "after entry of a final judgment by the superior court." As we have concluded that juvenile transfer orders entered by the District Court are "final" orders of the court in the juvenile matter within the meaning of N.C.G.S. § 7A-666(2), we further conclude that such orders are immediately appealable to the Court of Appeals. To the extent that it may be read as holding to the contrary, In re Green, 118 N.C. ...


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