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State v. W.P.

Court of Appeals of Alaska

April 24, 2015

STATE OF ALASKA, Appellant,
v.
W.P., a minor, and A.P., his parent, Appellees

Appeal from the Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Bethel, Charles W. Ray, Jr., Judge. Trial Court No. 4BE-11-014 DL.

Donald Soderstrom, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellant.

Callie Patton Kim, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellee W.P.

Shelley K. Chaffin, Law Office of Shelley K. Chaffin, Anchorage, for Appellee A.P.

Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 182

MANNHEIMER, Judge.

In November 2011, W.P. was adjudicated a delinquent minor based on his admission that he committed arson by burning a building. The superior court placed W.P. on probation for one year -- i.e., until November 3, 2012.

As a result of W.P.'s delinquency adjudication, the superior court was required by law to order W.P. and his mother, A.P., to make restitution for the damage that W.P. caused. See AS 47.12.120(b)(4)(A)-(B). The superior court's judgement did, in fact, specify that W.P. and A.P. were to make restitution in an amount to be determined later.

W.P. later reached an agreement with the State to pay a specific amount of restitution, and the superior court accepted this agreement. However, the litigation of A.P.'s restitution obligation was delayed for many months because of procedural errors and problems in obtaining legal counsel for A.P..

The restitution proceedings against A.P. remained unresolved when, in early November 2012, her son's juvenile probation ended and the superior court lost its juvenile court jurisdiction over him. See AS 47.12.160.

At that point, A.P. (through counsel) asked the superior court to dismiss the restitution claim against her. A.P. argued that, under the provisions of AS 47.12.160, the superior court lost its subject-matter jurisdiction, not just over her son, but over the entire case -- including any restitution claim against her -- when W.P. finished his year's probation.

Page 183

The superior court agreed with this interpretation of the statute and dismissed the State's restitution claim against A.P. for lack of jurisdiction. The State now appeals this dismissal.

For the reasons explained in this opinion, we hold that the superior court continued to have subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate A.P.'s restitution obligation even after her son's probation ended. We therefore reverse the decision of the superior court.

Underlying facts

Sixteen-year-old W.P. set fire to the Coastal Village Regional Fisheries building in the village of Quinhagak. On November 3, 2011, under the terms of a plea bargain, W.P. formally admitted this conduct, and he was adjudicated a delinquent minor. The plea bargain called for W.P. to be placed on juvenile probation for one year -- i.e., until November 3, 2012.

The plea bargain also called for W.P. to make restitution in an amount to be determined later. In this respect, the plea bargain merely reflected the superior court's statutory duty under AS 47.12.120(b)(4). Under this statute, the court was required to order both W.P. and his mother, A.P., to make restitution for the damage that W.P. had caused. See AS 47.12.120(b)(4)(A)-(B).

The superior court's disposition order ( i.e., its judgement) did, in fact, declare that both W.P. and his mother, A.P., were required to pay restitution in an amount to be determined later.

(a) The litigation of W.P.'s restitution obligation

The State initially filed a request for restitution in the amount of $103,378. W.P. filed an objection to the proposed restitution amount, and the superior court scheduled a hearing for April 2012. But at that April hearing, the attorneys for W.P. and the State announced that they had reached an agreement concerning the amount of W.P.'s restitution obligation. The parties agreed that W.P. should pay $84,878 in restitution (a reduction of about $20,000 from the amount originally requested). W.P.'s attorney expressly told the court that W.P. " [was] in agreement with [this] restitution amount" and " [was] not contesting restitution on his part."

W.P.'s attorney also told the court that the State had recently filed a proposed amended restitution order that reflected the parties' agreement. The superior court replied, " Haven't seen it, but I'll take your word for it."

However, it appears that this amended restitution order was never filed. The superior court's file does not contain any such document. Indeed, the superior court's file contains no signed order setting the dollar amount of W.P.'s restitution obligation. In other words, no one ever followed up on the parties' stipulation (in open court) that W.P. would pay restitution in the amount of $84,878.

(b) The litigation of A.P.'s restitution obligation

The litigation of A.P.'s restitution obligation was repeatedly delayed, over a period of more than a year, because of procedural errors and ...


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