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Alaska Public Defender Agency v. Superior Court

Court of Appeals of Alaska

January 12, 2018

ALASKA PUBLIC DEFENDER AGENCY, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERIOR COURT, Respondent.

         Original Application for Relief from the Superior Court Trial Court No. 4SM-16-002 DL, Fourth Judicial District, Bethel, Dwayne W. McConnell, Judge.

          Kelly R. Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Petitioner.

          Jeffrey W. Robinson, Ashburn & Mason, P.C., Anchorage, for the Respondent.

          David A. Wilkinson, Assistant Attorney General, Fairbanks, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice (intervenor).

          Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Suddock, Superior Court Judge. [*]

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER, JUDGE.

         This case arises out of juvenile delinquency proceedings against J.B., a minor who lives in the village of Marshall. J.B.'s family is indigent, and J.B. is represented by the Public Defender Agency.

         J.B. has invoked his right to trial and, under the venue rules, J.B.'s trial is to be held in Bethel. But J.B.'s family has no funds to transport him to Bethel. Moreover, because of J.B.'s youth, his parents take the position that one of them must accompany J.B. to Bethel.

         The superior court has ordered the Public Defender Agency to pay for this travel expense. Quoting the language of AS 18.85.100(a)(2), the superior court reasoned that this transportation expense was one of the "necessary services and facilities of [the Agency's] representation" of J.B.

         The Public Defender Agency now petitions this Court to review and reverse the superior court's order. The Agency takes the position that the transportation expense should be borne either by the Division of Juvenile Justice (i.e., the government entity that is prosecuting J.B.) or, alternatively, by the Court System.

         Both the Alaska Court System and the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice are actively participating in this litigation; they ask this Court to uphold the superior court's ruling.

         The parties are in essential agreement that some government entity should pay to transport an indigent minor (and, when necessary, a parent or guardian) to the site of the minor's trial. The problem is to identify which government entity that should be.

         The Division of Juvenile Justice concedes that they should pay the expense of transporting a minor who is in custody. But with regard to minors who are released from custody pending trial (such as the minor in this case), the Division of Juvenile Justice argues that the expense of transportation should be borne by the legal agency that is representing the minor (i.e., the Public Defender Agency or the Office of Public Advocacy), just as the agency would bear other necessary expenses of the representation such as the transportation of needed witnesses.

         The Division of Juvenile Justice bases its argument on the Public Defender Agency's authorizing statute, AS 18.85.100. Subsection (a) of this statute declares that indigent defendants in criminal ...


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