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Commonwealth v. Orbin O.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Berkshire

February 5, 2018

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ORBIN O., a juvenile.

          Heard: November 7, 2017.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Berkshire County Division of the Juvenile Court Department on April 14, 2016. A motion to dismiss was heard by Judith A. Locke, J.

         The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.

          Kyle G. Christensen, Assistant District Attorney (Joseph A. Pieropan, Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the Commonwealth.

          Afton M. Templin for the juvenile.

          The following submitted briefs for amici curiae: Miriam H. Ruttenberg, Jennifer Honig, & Phillip Kassel for Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee & others.

          Ryan M. Schiff, Committee for Public Counsel Services, _& Joseph N. Schneiderman for Youth Advocacy Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

          Daniel F. Conley, District Attorney for the Suffolk District, & John P. Zanini, Assistant District Attorney, for District Attorney for the Suffolk District.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.

          GANTS, C.J.

         In Commonwealth v. Newton N., 478 Mass., (2018), also decided today, in which a police officer applied for and obtained a delinquency complaint, we held that, "where a prosecutor exercises his or her discretion to proceed to arraignment on a delinquency complaint supported by probable cause, the judge may not dismiss the complaint before arraignment on the grounds that dismissal of the complaint is in the best interests of the child and in the interests of justice. " We consider here whether that same limitation on judicial authority in deciding a motion to dismiss applies to a delinquency complaint brought by a private party under G. L. c. 218, § 35A, where a clerk-magistrate issued the complaint after finding probable cause. We conclude that this same limitation applies only where the prosecutor has affirmatively adopted the private party's complaint by moving for arraignment. In cases where the prosecutor has not so moved, a judge considering a juvenile's motion to dismiss prior to arraignment may consider whether the clerk-magistrate abused his or her discretion in issuing the complaint and, in doing so, may consider whether dismissal is in the best interests of the child and in the interests of justice.[1]

         Background.

         On March 24, 2016, the vice-principal of the juvenile's charter school filed an application under G. L. c. 218, § 35A, for a delinquency complaint, alleging that the juvenile committed an assault and battery in the classroom against a paraprofessional instructor, in violation of G. L. c. 265, § 13A (a.) . Following a show cause hearing, the clerk-magistrate issued a delinquency complaint, along with a written summary of the testimony presented at the hearing. The juvenile then moved to dismiss the complaint before arraignment.

         On May 5, 2016, a hearing was held on the motion to dismiss. The Juvenile Court judge, based on the documents attached to the application for the complaint and the relevant evidence presented at the show cause hearing, allowed the juvenile's motion to ...


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