Bright Line Rules v. Facts And Circumstances: Further Thoughts On In Re: Cassandra C.

What was the real legal dispute in In re: Cassandra C.?  Yes, the specific question was whether a 17-year-old teenager could be forced against her will to undergo life-saving chemotherapy.  But, what was the real issue? 

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Supreme Court Affirms Cassandra C. Is Not A “Mature Minor”

Only minutes after hearing oral arguments in the appeal of In re: Cassandra C. (see my earlier posts), the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled from the bench, unanimously, that the 17-year-old teen who wanted the legal right to refuse life-saving chemotherapy was not a “mature minor” and, therefore, could not refuse such treatment. 

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In Re: Cassandra C., Ctd.

Two quick updates to the preceding post concerning the appeal in In re: Cassandra C.  First, Cassandra’s attorneys filed their reply brief today.  The filing of that brief, which responds to the legal arguments the Department of Children and Families made in its brief, concludes the written briefs portion of the appeal.  Second, the oral argument in the Supreme Court at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 8 will be televised (I assume by CT-N).

I plan to attend the oral argument on Thursday and hope to have a post-argument post later that day.  Stay tuned.

Can A Minor Refuse Lifesaving Medical Treatment? A Discussion Of In Re: Cassandra C.

Governor Malloy recently reappointed former state Supreme Court Justice Joette Katz as Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”), reflecting his faith in her ability to run the critically important, but much maligned, agency. And, by accepting that reappointment, Katz revealed that she is either a saint or a glutton for punishment.

The punishment may continue (undeservedly so in my humble opinion) as the public learns more about a case that the Connecticut Supreme Court will hear, on an expedited/emergency basis, this Thursday, January 8.  The case, In re Cassandra C., involves a now 17-year-old girl who was diagnosed last September with cancer, specifically, high-risk Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (Several media entities reported on the case over the past few days. However, the existence of the expedited appeal has been reflected on the Supreme Court’s electronic docket since mid-December.)

As Cassandra’s attorneys acknowledge in their appellate brief, “[t]he uncontroverted testimony of several medical professionals indicated that Cassandra’s disease, if treated with chemotherapy, presented an 85% chance of survival, but if left untreated, presented a near certainty of death within two years.” See Joint Brief of Respondent Mother and Minor Child (“Joint Br.”) at 2 (emphasis supplied). The problem is Cassandra apparently doesn’t want the chemotherapy that will almost certainly cure her. She apparently prefers virtually certain death. And Cassandra’s mother won’t consent on her behalf. Neither Cassandra’s nor her mother’s objections to the treatment are religiously-based.  See Brief of Petitioner-Appellee (“DCF Br.”) at 18. They just don’t want the life-saving treatment.

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Appellate Court To Hear Jane Doe Case

The Connecticut Appellate Court will hear oral arguments this Thursday morning in the case of In re: Angel R., otherwise known as the Jane Doe case.  Jane is a transgender youth in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, whose temporary transfer to the York Correctional Institution For Women in Niantic earlier this year provoked strong reactions from many individuals and civil rights groups.  The appeal focuses on the constitutionality of a rarely invoked statute that authorizes a Superior Court judge, under certain circumstances, to transfer a youth in DCF custody to a correctional facility.  Two of the briefs in the case are available at this link.

That’s One Hell Of An Accusation Hubie

Hartford attorney Hubert “Hubie” Santos is one of the most respected criminal defense attorneys in the State of Connecticut.  Rightly so. When he makes a representation in open court about a fact that he believes to be true, people listen. Judges listen.  And the media reports what he says.

The Hartford Courant reports today that in a hearing before Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey on Monday, Attorney Santos accused Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz of intentionally interfering in a criminal prosecution by using her power to have a prosecutor removed from the case.  Santos said:

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Judge Releases Detailed Memorandum In Jane Doe/DCF Case

Last Friday I posted about the obstacles that the confidentiality of juvenile court proceedings and DCF records have posed to an informed public debate about DCF’s supervision of Jane Doe.   Although prior news reports noted an April 8, 2014 order of the Superior Court judge who granted DCF’s request to transfer Jane Doe to the York correctional facility in Niantic, the judge subsequently articulated his reasoning in greater detail in a 22-page memorandum released on May 6, 2014. (I have posted a copy that redacts the references to Jane Doe’s first name.)  An appeal from his initial decision was filed in the Appellate Court on April 16, 2014.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has reported on that memorandum yet.  [See Update at end of this post.]  If you are truly interested in Jane Doe’s case, PLEASE READ IT.  And be prepared to reevaluate many factual assumptions you have had about the case. Here is a selection from the beginning of the decision:

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Debating The “Jane Doe” Case Without The Facts

I finally blew a gasket when actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein, of all people, decided that he knew enough about the facts of Connecticut’s Jane Doe case to write an op-ed in the New York Times. The troubling story of Jane Doe has been the subject of many articles, editorials and op-eds over the past several weeks.  Jane Doe is the transgender teen that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) asked a judge for permission to transfer to the York Correctional Institution for Women in Niantic because of her alleged history of physical violence towards other girls and DCF staff.

The transfer of a youth to an adult correctional facility–especially when the youth has not been convicted of a crime–is a very serious and newsworthy issue. It not only warrants, but demands, public attention and debate. Read the rest of this entry »