OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH CIRCUIT, PARISH
November 13, 2015, the state filed a petition alleging that
R.M. committed the felony-grade delinquent act of possession
with intent to distribute a counterfeit controlled dangerous
substance, La.R.S. 14:971.1, when R.M. was 15 years old. On
November 23, 2015, R.M. appeared to answer the petition and
entered a denial of the allegations. Pursuant to La.Ch.C.
art. 877(B), the state had 90 days to commence the
adjudication, i.e. until February 21, 2016.
December 4, 2015, R.M. filed a motion to challenge
competency. On December 8, 2015, the juvenile court appointed
a panel of doctors to evaluate R.M. The court stayed the
proceedings pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832 and set a
competency hearing for January 27, 2016. The court, on its
own motion, reset the hearing date several times after R.M.
was arrested on a new charge and to give the doctors
additional time to evaluate R.M. The court ultimately held
the competency hearing on March 17, 2016, and found R.M.
competent to proceed based on the doctors'
juvenile court set the adjudication for April 14, 2016, but
continued the hearing until May 4, 2016 because the police
officers involved in the case were not served. On May 4,
2016, the parties appeared for the adjudication, and the
state made an oral motion to continue because the officers
still had not been subpoenaed. In response, R.M. made an oral
motion to dismiss the delinquency petition. The trial court
granted R.M.'s motion, finding that the competency
determination had resulted in unreasonable delay not
attributable to any fault of the juvenile.
state sought supervisory review from the court of appeal,
which affirmed the juvenile court's dismissal in a split
decision. State in the Interest of R.M., 16-0616
(La.App. 4 Cir. 1/11/17), 208 So.3d 966. The majority found
that the 90-day time limit to commence the adjudication was
extended by the juvenile court once for good cause shown, and
thereafter the state did not request or receive an extension.
Therefore, the majority found that the time limit in La.Ch.C.
art. 877 was exceeded and the juvenile court did not err by
granting R.M.'s motion to dismiss. The majority also
found, citing State in the Interest of F.M., 12-1442
(La.App. 4 Cir. 6/5/13), 118 So.3d 1232, writ
denied, 13-1623 (La. 2/14/14), 132 So.3d 401, that the
state was not relieved of its obligation to seek an extension
for good cause under La.Ch.C. art. 877(D) although the
proceedings were stayed pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832.
Ledet dissented, finding that State in the Interest of
F.M. is distinguishable because, unlike R.M., F.M.'s
competency was not called into question until after
the time limit to commence the delinquency adjudication
expired. Judge Ledet noted that La.Ch.C. art. 832
"mandate[s] that no further action be taken in a
delinquency proceeding until after the juvenile is found to
have the mental capacity to proceed, which shall be
determined by the court after a contradictory hearing."
State in the interest of R.M., 16-0606, p. 2, 208
So.3d at 970 (Ledet, J., dissenting). Judge Ledet found that
the time to commence the delinquency adjudication here had
not expired because:
R.M. filed a motion to challenge competency fifteen days
after he answered the petition. On March 17, 2016, after
several continuances on the district court's own motions,
the contradictory hearing to determine competency was held.
R.M. was found competent to proceed. Given that Article 832
specifically mandates the suspension of proceedings until a
determination of competency has been made, I would find that
the time limit to commence prosecution did not expire.
State in the interest of R.M., 16-0606, p. 2, 208
So.3d at 970-971 (Ledet, J., dissenting) (citations omitted).
We agree with Judge Ledet's analysis.
State of Louisiana in the Interest of J.M., 13-2573,
p. 5 (La. 12/9/14), 156 So.3d 1161, this court emphasized the
mandatory nature of the time limits established in La.Ch.C.
art. 877 and, absent a showing of good cause by the state,
the 90-day period cannot be suspended or interrupted.
Moreover, this court stated that "it is incumbent upon
the state to make a showing of good cause and obtain an
extension before the period has run." State
in the Interest of R.D.C., Jr., 93-1865 (La. 2/28/94),
632 So.2d 745, 749 (emphasis in original).
juvenile argues in essence that the state was still obligated
to seek an extension for good cause, pursuant to La.Ch.C.
art. 877(D), although R.M.'s competency was placed at
issue and the proceedings were stayed pursuant to La.Ch.C.
art. 832. The court of appeal agreed and found "that the
stay pursuant to article 832 did not relieve the State of its
duty to request and obtain a good cause extension before the
article 877 mandatory time limit expired." State in
the interest of R.M., 16-0616, p. 4, 208 So.3d
at 969. This view conflicts with the plain language of
Article 832, however, which states (emphasis added),
"When the question of the child's mental incapacity
to proceed is raised, there shall be no further
steps in the delinquency proceeding . . . until . . .
the child is found to have the mental capacity to
proceed." To resolve any tension between La.Ch.C. arts.
877 and 832, the court of appeal cited State in the
interest of F.M. for the proposition that a stay
"cannot serve as a substitute for requesting and
obtaining an extension for good cause." State in the
interest of R.M., 16-0616, p. 4, 208 So.3d at 969
(quoting State in the interest of F.M., 12-1442, p.
4, 118 So.3d at 1234). When that quote is viewed in its
context, however, it is clear that State in the Interest
of F.M. did not address the situation presented here (as
correctly noted by Judge Ledet in her dissent):
Significantly absent in the record, is evidence that the
State requested and received a good cause extension
before the time limit ran. See State in the interest of
R.D.C., Jr., supra. Although a stay was ordered and
presumably in place at the time of the dismissal, it cannot
serve as a substitute for requesting and obtaining an
extension for good cause. Thus, we cannot find that the trial
court abused its broad discretion in dismissing the case for
failure to timely prosecute.
State in the interest of F.M., 12-1442, p. 4, 118
So.3d at 1234 (footnote omitted) (emphasis added).
State in the Interest of R.D.C., Jr., 632 So.2d 745,
748 (La. 1994), this court found that "it is incumbent
on the state to make a showing of good cause and obtain an
extension before the period [established in La.Ch.C.
art. 877] has run." Thus, "[i]n the event that a
good cause extension is not granted and the period runs out,
the state may not refile its petition." Id. In
the present case, the time had not run when the state was
prohibited from taking any further action other than that
specified by La.Ch.C. art. 832. The delay occasioned by the
necessity of determining R.M.'s competency is not
attributable to the state, and that delay, which is a direct
consequence of La.Ch.C. art. 832 and grounded in the basic
requirements of due process and fairness,  is beyond the
state's control. Thus, we find that the time afforded to
the state to commence the adjudication was suspended during
the time in which R.M.'s competency was in question.
Cf. State in the Interest of A.C., ...