Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
T. QUIGLESS, J.
D.R.C. appeals the juvenile court's judgment committing
him to the Division of Youth Services after he violated terms
of his intensive court supervision. He seeks a remand for a
new dispositional hearing. During the pendency of this
appeal, however, D.R.C. turned eighteen years old. The
Division of Youth Services discharged D.R.C. from its custody
and supervision, and the juvenile court did not regain
jurisdiction over him. This case is now moot. No exception to
the mootness doctrine applies, allowing us to exercise our
discretion to consider the merits of the appeal. We thus
dismiss the appeal.
D.R.C. was sixteen years old, the juvenile court found that
he had committed the delinquent acts of open display of a
firearm and resisting arrest. D.R.C. admitted that he
committed the offenses. The juvenile court placed D.R.C. on
intensive official court supervision and committed him to the
custody of his mother, subject to certain terms and
conditions. In placing D.R.C. on court supervision, the
juvenile court explained the rules and expectations of
supervision to D.R.C., and D.R.C. told the court that he
understood those rules and expectations. The juvenile court
also expressly informed D.R.C., numerous times, that if he
violated any term or condition of his supervision, the court
would commit him to the Division of Youth Services. D.R.C.
understood this as well.
months later, the Juvenile Officer moved to modify the
juvenile court's disposition order, alleging that D.R.C.
had violated five conditions of his court
supervision. The juvenile court found that D.R.C. had
indeed violated the court's order and committed him to
the care, custody, and control of the Division of Youth
now appeals, asking that we vacate his disposition and remand
the case for a new dispositional hearing before a different
juvenile commissioner. He contends that in making the
decision to commit him to the Division of Youth Services, the
juvenile commissioner impermissibly considered the fact that
he requested an adjudication hearing rather than just
admitting the allegations made against him in the motion to
modify. D.R.C. does not challenge the finding that
he violated the terms of supervision, nor does he challenge
the initial adjudication of delinquency.
he filed his appeal in this Court, D.R.C. turned eighteen,
and the Division of Youth Services discharged him, in
accordance with Section 219.026 RSMo. The Juvenile Officer has
filed a motion to dismiss this appeal as moot because D.R.C.
has aged out of the juvenile-justice system.
threshold question in any appellate review of a controversy
is the mootness of the controversy." State ex rel.
Reed v. Reardon, 41 S.W.3d 470, 473 (Mo. banc 2001);
In Interest of S.B.A., 530 S.W.3d 615. 619 (Mo. App.
E.D. 2017). It is well-settled in Missouri that courts do not
determine moot cases. Kinsky v. Steiger, 109 S.W.3d
194, 195 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). Mootness implicates the
justiciability of a case. Reardon, 41 S.W.3d at 473.
"A question is justiciable only where the judgment will
declare a fixed right and accomplish a useful purpose."
Kinsky, 109 S.W.3d at 195. "When an event
occurs that makes a court's decision unnecessary or makes
granting effectual relief by the court impossible, the case
is moot and generally should be dismissed."
Reardon, 41 S.W.3d at 473 (internal quotation
omitted); Kinsky, 109 S.W.3d at 195.
"If no relief can be granted … because the
situation has so changed that the relief sought cannot be
granted, the court will not go through the empty formality of
determining whether or not the relief asked for …
could have been granted but for changed conditions."
In Interest of R.L.P., 536 S.W.2d 41, 43 (Mo. App.
1976). "Even a case vital at inception of the appeal may
be mooted by an intervening event which so alters the
position of the parties that any judgment rendered merely
becomes a hypothetical opinion." Reardon, 41
S.W.3d at 473; R.L.P., 536 S.W.2d at 44 (dismissing
appeal as moot where juvenile sought release from custody of
Division of Youth Services either via new hearing or outright
discharge, and division terminated its custody and
supervision of the juvenile during pendency of appeal; court
reasoned that it could not grant effective relief because
juvenile had received all the relief to which he was
controversy in this case is moot. D.R.C. seeks remand to the
juvenile court for a new dispositional hearing. But the
jurisdiction - meaning the authority and supervision - of the
juvenile court over D.R.C. has ended. The juvenile courts are
courts of limited jurisdiction and may exercise only such
powers as are conferred by statute. In re A ___ N
___, 500 S.W.2d 284, 287 (Mo. App. 1973). Jurisdiction
of the juvenile court is set out in Section 211.031 and
Section 211.041. The juvenile court here acquired
jurisdiction over D.R.C. under Section 211.031.1(3), which
provides that the juvenile court has exclusive original
jurisdiction in proceedings involving any person who is
alleged to have violated a state law prior to attaining the
age of seventeen years. Section 211.031.1(3).
juvenile court was divested of that jurisdiction, however,
when the court committed D.R.C. to the Division of Youth
Services. Not only did the juvenile court expressly note in
its commitment order that it was not retaining jurisdiction,
but the court lost jurisdiction by operation of Section
211.041. That section provides that when the juvenile court
has acquired jurisdiction over a juvenile in situations such
as this, the court may retain that jurisdiction until the
juvenile reaches the age of twenty-one, "except in cases
where [the child] is committed to and received by the
division of youth services…." Section 211.041.
Once a juvenile is committed to, and received by, the
Division of Youth Services, the juvenile court loses
jurisdiction and such jurisdiction lodges exclusively with
the division. K.H. v. State, 403 S.W.3d 720, 723
(Mo. App. W.D. 2013). Thus, when D.R.C. was committed to and
received by the Division of Youth Services, jurisdiction over
him lodged exclusively with the division.
juvenile court may regain jurisdiction from the Division of
Youth Services in certain select circumstances, but none
exist here. The juvenile court may request that jurisdiction
over a juvenile committed to and received by the Division of
Youth Services be returned to the court. Section 211.041. But
nothing in the record shows that the juvenile court made such
a request here. Similarly, the juvenile court may regain
jurisdiction upon request by the Division of Youth Services.
The division may apply to the juvenile court for relief from
its custody where a child is in need of care or treatment
which the division is not equipped to provide. Section
219.081; see also, State v. Tate, 637
S.W.2d 67, 71-72 (Mo. App. E.D. 1982). But the division
made no such request here. The juvenile court may also
acquire jurisdiction anew as a result of new jurisdictional
facts that arise after commitment. Durant v. State,
523 S.W.2d 837 (Mo. App. 1975)(holding juvenile court could
exercise newly-acquired jurisdiction over juvenile, committed
on basis of felonious assault, but then returned to the
jurisdiction of the juvenile court to face murder charge
after assault victim died). No such facts are alleged to have
arisen in this case. Thus, the juvenile court in this case
was divested of its jurisdiction over D.R.C., and it never
regained that jurisdiction, nor acquired jurisdiction anew.
D.R.C. turned eighteen during the pendency of this appeal and
has completed his time at the Division of Youth Services. As
a general rule, the Division of Youth Services may only
maintain custody of a juvenile until the juvenile's
eighteenth birth date. Section 219.021.1. The division
could have, but did not petition the juvenile court to extend
the division's custody of ...