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In re Henrry P. B.-P.

Supreme Court of Connecticut

December 14, 2017

IN RE HENRRY P. B.-P.[*]

          Argued September 20, 2017

          Enelsa Diaz, with whom were Giovanna Shay, and, on the brief, Charles D. Ray and Brittany A. Killian, for the appellants (petitioner et al.)

          Edwin D. Colon and Jay E. Sicklick filed a brief for the Center for Children's Advocacy, Inc., et al., as amici curiae.

          James Worthington and Kevin P. Broughel filed a brief for Kids in Need of Defense as amicus curiae.

          Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Eveleigh, McDonald, Robinson and Espinosa, Js. [**]

          OPINION

          ROBINSON, J.

         In this certified appeal, we consider whether the Probate Court retains the statutory authority to make findings pursuant to General Statutes § 45a-608n (b)[1] in connection with a petition for special immigrant juvenile status (juvenile status) under 8 U.S.C. § 1101 (a) (27) (J), [2] when the minor child who is the subject of the petition reaches the age of eighteen years old during the pendency of the petition. The petitioner, Reyna P. A., and her son, Henrry P. B.-P., appeal, upon our grant of their petition for certification, [3] from the judgment of the Appellate Court, which affirmed the judgments of the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters dismissing their appeals from the decisions of the Probate Court. In re Henrry P. B.-P., 171 Conn.App. 393, 415, 156 A.3d 673 (2017). We agree with their dispositive claim in this appeal, and conclude that the Probate Court did not lose its authority to make juvenile status findings pursuant to § 45a-608n (b) when Henrry turned eighteen years old during the pendency of the petition. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

         The record and the opinion of the Appellate Court set forth the relevant facts and procedural history. ‘‘[The petitioner] and her two . . . children, Henrry and [his sister], are from Honduras. After her husband and father-in-law were brutally murdered by the same group of individuals, [the petitioner] fled Honduras, seeking safety in the United States and leaving her two minor children behind with their paternal grandmother because they were too young to make the treacherous journey into the [United States]. As the children grew into adolescents, the threats against them began to escalate as well. . . . Eventually, fearing for their lives, [Henrry and his sister], unbeknownst to relatives, decided to embark on their own journey into the United States to find their mother and seek refuge. . . .

         ‘‘Upon entering the United States in 2015, Henrry and [his sister] were detained by Immigration Customs and Border Patrol and then ultimately released to [the petitioner] in Connecticut. They were seventeen and sixteen years old at that time. Since arriving in Connecticut, both minors have resided with [the petitioner] and the proposed coguardian in this case, [Santos O. R.], and have been enrolled in . . . high school, where Henrry recently completed tenth grade. . . . Both [the petitioner] and [Santos] work full-time to support the needs of Henrry and his [sister]. . . .

         ‘‘On March 1, 2016, approximately five weeks prior to Henrry's eighteenth birthday, [the petitioner], through counsel, initiated the underlying [action in the Probate Court]. On that date, she filed a petition for removal of guardian, to remove her minor children's father as guardian and affirm herself as guardian, and addition- ally seeking the appointment of [Santos] as] coguardian. . . . On that date, she also filed a petition for [juvenile status findings] pursuant to § 45a-608n, to be used in connection with an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [Immigration Services]. . . . Finally, on that date, [the petitioner] filed a motion for waiver of study by the Department of Children and Families [department] for Henrry, notifying the Probate Court that Henrry would be turning eighteen in approximately five weeks, and that time was of the essence.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 396-97.

         ‘‘ ‘On March 23, 2016, the Probate Court issued its first order of notice of hearing in this case indicating that the matter was being set down for a hearing with ‘‘no appearance necessary'' by the parties on April 22, 2016, a date after Henrry's eighteenth birthday. . . . The Probate Court also [sent notice to] a [department] social work supervisor, ordering [the department] to complete a study for both minors on the petition for removal, and impliedly denying [the petitioner's] motion for the waiver of study by [the department] for Henrry. . . .

         ‘‘ ‘On April 1, 2016, with Henrry's eighteenth birthday closely approaching, with no [department] study and no hearing date, [the petitioner] filed an emergency petition for findings under § 45a-608n . . . . In her motion, [the petitioner] requested that the court make findings in connection with her petition for [juvenile status] findings, or, in the alternative, hold an emergency hearing before Henrry's eighteenth birthday, in order to do so. . . . The attorney for the child, appointed by the Probate Court, Attorney Frank Twohill, having received a copy of the [e]mergency [p]etition, visited with the child and wrote a letter to the court indicating both his support for the [emergency petition], and his availability for an evidentiary hearing . . . should the court choose to hold one. . . .

         ‘‘ ‘On April 1, 2016, the Probate Court . . . denied the emergency petition in a brief written order, indicating [as follows]: ‘‘The [e]mergency [p]etition for [f]ind-ings under [§] 45a-608n, dated April 1, 2016, is hereby [denied] by the court. Pursuant to [§] 45a-608n (b), the granting of a petition to remove is a prerequisite to making the requested written findings.'' . . . Henrry subsequently turned eighteen a few days later, before any hearing was ever held in the Probate Court.

         ‘‘ ‘On April 22, 2016, [the petitioner] and Henrry . . . jointly filed an appeal to the Superior Court . . . pursuant to [General Statutes § 45a-186 (a)] and Practice Book § 10-76 (a), appealing both the March 23, 2016 order, setting a ‘‘no appearance'' hearing after Henrry's eighteenth birthday and impliedly denying [the petitioner's] motion for waiver of the study by [the department], and the April 1, 2016 order, denying the emergency petition for findings under [§] 45a-608n. . . . The [Superior] Court set the matter down for a hearing on May 19, 2016, and another attorney was appointed for Henrry as attorney for the minor child. . . .

         ‘‘ ‘On May 19, 2016, the [Superior] Court . . . dismissed the appeal from Probate Court on the record, without holding an evidentiary hearing, stating that the [Superior] Court lacked jurisdiction over the appeal, because Henrry was now eighteen years old. . . . [The petitioner] and Henrry filed [their first appeal] with [the Appellate Court] on June 2, 2016. . . .

         ‘‘ ‘On May 31, 2016 . . . approximately eight weeks after Henrry's eighteenth birthday, [the department] completed its social study on both Henrry and his sister . . . and provided its report to the Probate Court. In its report, [the department] indicated its support for the pending petitions, asking that the court grant the petition to remove the father as guardian, to affirm [the petitioner] as guardian, and to appoint [Santos] as coguardian of Henrry and his [sister]. . . .

         ‘‘ ‘On June 3, 2016, the Probate Court issued another order for notice of hearing, this time scheduling an actual hearing date for the underlying petitions for July 19, 2016, but the hearing was set down for [Henrry's sister] . . . and not for Henrry. . . . On June 22, 2016, [the petitioner] filed a motion to schedule hearing or for a dispositive order in Henrry's case. . . . The Probate Court responded to the motion by scheduling a hearing on the underlying petitions for Henrry on July 19, 2016, along with that of his younger sister . . . .

         ‘‘ ‘On July 19, 2016, the Probate Court held a full hearing for both Henrry and his sister, first entertaining legal argument from counsel on the jurisdictional issue regarding Henrry's case, [given] that he [was] eighteen, and then taking testimony on the substantive issues from all the interested parties. The matter was then taken under advisement . . . .'

         ‘‘On August 30, 2016, the Probate Court mailed its decision affirming the petitioner as sole guardian, but denying her petition for removal of the father as guardian and the appointment of Santos . . . as coguardian of Henrry because Henrry was eighteen years old and no longer a minor child. It declined to make the requested juvenile status findings, also because Henrry was age eighteen and no longer a minor child. On September 26, 2016, the petitioner and Henrry filed a second appeal to the Superior Court . . . from the Probate Court's August 30, 2016 decision, and on November 1, 2016, that appeal was dismissed. On November 4, 2016, the petitioner and Henrry [filed a second appeal to the Appellate Court].'' Id., 398-401. The Appellate Court then consolidated the two appeals. Id., 401.[4]

         In considering whether the Probate Court had the authority to grant the relief sought by the petitioner and Henrry, the Appellate Court reviewed numerous provisions in ‘‘chapter 802h of the General Statutes, which pertains to protected persons, including minors or minor children.''[5] Id., 403-404. The Appellate Court stated as follows: ‘‘In this case . . . on the date the petitioner filed the petitions she, pursuant to [General Statutes] § 45a-606, was Henrry's sole guardian because his father was and had been deceased before [Henrry] arrived in the United States. There is no mention in that statute, in § 45a-608n, or in any other of the statutes in part II of chapter 802h, of any statutory authority granted to Connecticut courts to take action with respect to a person who has reached the age of majority. Section 45a-608n by its terms applies solely during the minority of any child.'' Id., 405. The Appellate Court further determined that the ‘‘plain language'' of the statutes at issue, ‘‘particularly § 45a-608n, [does] not provide the Probate Court with authority either to appoint a guardian for an individual after his or her eighteenth birthday, or to make juvenile status findings after such eighteenth birthday.'' Id., 414.

         Following two decisions from this court construing General Statutes § 46b-129; see In re Jose B., 303 Conn. 569, 34 A.3d 975 (2012); In re Jessica M., 303 Conn. 584, 35 A.3d 1072 (2012); along with one of its own decisions; see In re Pedro J.C., 154 Conn.App. 517, 105 A.3d 943 (2014); the Appellate Court then deemed itself ‘‘constrained to conclude'' that the present case was rendered moot ‘‘after Henrry reached the age of majority [because] the Probate Court lacked statutory authority to appoint a coguardian for him and to make the juvenile status findings permitted by § 45a-608n.''[6]In re Henrry P. B.-P., supra, 171 Conn.App. 410. Accordingly, over a dissent ...


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