This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






In the Matter of the Welfare of:


Filed January 16, 2001


Stoneburner, Judge


Hennepin County Juvenile Court

File No. J29865913



Michele Barley, Hanjani & Barley; 235 Hassan Street Southeast, Hutchinson, MN 55350; and


James M. Ventura, Lambert & Boeder, 1000 Superior Boulevard, Wayzata, MN 55391 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Gayle C. Hendley, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.




U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




Juvenile-appellant C.D.P. asserts that the juvenile court erred by modifying his disposition and placing him at the Department of Corrections facility in Red Wing because the evidence did not support such modification and the juvenile court failed to make written findings.  Because the juvenile court failed to make written findings as required by statute and rule, we reverse.



            C.D.P. was tried on stipulated facts and adjudicated delinquent in January 1999 for committing criminal sexual conduct in the first degree against his nine-year-old cousin. By Disposition Order filed February 11, 1999, C.D.P was ordered to an unspecified out-of-home juvenile sex-offender treatment program, but placement was stayed until February 19, 2001.  C.D.P. was placed on probation with conditions, including successful completion of Lutheran Social Services’ outpatient sex-offender treatment program. 

Lutheran Social Services determined that C.D.P. was ineligible for its program because C.D.P. denied his offenses, harbored anger toward his victim, and exhibited a high potential to reoffend.   C.D.P.’s probation officer referred C.D.P. to the Project Pathfinder Family Education Program.  C.D.P. completed the family education program, but in July 1999, Pathfinder’s program director indicated that C.D.P. was not amenable to a long-term treatment program for adolescents convicted of sexual offenses because C.D.P. “does not believe he engaged in any behaviors that are reflective of sexual abuse.”  In August 1999, the state moved for modification of the disposition, requesting that the juvenile court commit C.D.P. to the Commissioner of Corrections for placement at Red Wing.   Based on information presented at the September 7, 1999 hearing on the state’s motion, the juvenile court continued the stay of C.D.P.’s out-of-home treatment, contingent upon his successful completion of a specialized Recalcitrant Group Program with Project Pathfinder.  The Recalcitrant Program is designed to treat offenders who deny or minimize their offenses.  Although C.D.P participated in the Recalcitrant Program, C.D.P.’s therapist reported to the probation agent in November 1999 that he would discontinue treatment if C.D.P. continued to deny the offense.  In February 2000, Project Pathfinder discharged C.D.P. for “not making progress.”

On March 16, 2000, the juvenile court held a disposition modification hearing.  The juvenile court concluded that C.D.P. must continue to comply with all previous conditions of probation and that he must complete the Pathfinder Recalcitrant Program.  The juvenile court stated that in order to complete the program, C.D.P. must admit to committing the acts of criminal sexual conduct for which he was adjudicated delinquent.

A month later, however, Pathfinder program directors reported that C.D.P. continued to deny his offenses.  The state again moved to modify C.D.P.’s disposition to place C.D.P. in the correctional facility at Red Wing.  At the May 17, 2000 hearing on the state’s motion, the clinical director of Project Pathfinder opposed C.D.P.’s commitment to Red Wing and testified that he did not believe that residential treatment would be successful and that incarceration of C.D.P. was not necessary to protect the public safety.  The clinical director of Project Pathfinder testified that C.D.P. had not been discharged from the Recalcitrant Group program and that he could remain there while maintaining denial for up to nine months.  The juvenile court nonetheless orally modified C.D.P.’s disposition by lifting the stay and committing him to the correctional facility in Red Wing.  The juvenile court articulated its findings on the record in open court:

The initial disposition by the Court was for inpatient sex offender treatment stayed on the conditions that [C.D.P.] successfully comply with the other conditions of probation.


* * *


[H]e has not successfully complied with the part of the court order that says he will attend and successfully complete an outpatient juvenile sex offender treatment program.


* * *


Therefore, I find under Juvenile Rule of Procedure 15.08 subdivision 3, that the present disposition has been inconsistent with [C.D.P.]’s actual rehabilitative needs because he has not admitted to [his offenses] and, therefore, there has been no treatment.

            The change in circumstances is that he has not admitted to it, he has not been treated for it, and the fact that he is over 18 years of age so that Juvenile Court jurisdiction will end by the time of his 19th birthday in February of the year 2001.

Based upon that, I amend my previous court order so that I’m ordering that he be committed to the Commissioner of Corrections at their sex offender treatment program at Red Wing.


* * *


[T]he Court takes judicial notice of the fact that the only treatment program or the only correctional facility * * * that will accept [C.D.P.] at this time is * * * at Red Wing * * * [and] [t]hat the Court looked at less restrictive alternatives including Leo Hoffman Center, and including the County Home School Juvenile Sex Offender Program which both did not accept [C.D.P.].


Following the hearing, the juvenile court filed an order to transport C.D.P. to Red Wing, but did not issue a formal disposition modification order or any written findings supporting the disposition modification.  C.D.P. appeals, contending that the juvenile court committed reversible error by failing to issue written findings supporting the disposition modification and that the evidence does not support the modification.



            A disposition modification order must contain written findings of fact to support the disposition modification.  See Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.08, subd. 8 (mandating disposition modification order comply with Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2, which requires written findings); see also Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1(m) (Supp. 1999) (requiring written findings of fact support disposition).[1]  The written findings must describe (1) why the new disposition serves both the public safety and best interests of the child; (2) what alternative dispositions were proposed to the court and why these alternatives were not ordered; (3) why the child’s present custody is not acceptable; and (4) how the correctional placement meets the child’s needs.  Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(A); see Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1(m); In re Welfare of M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d 494, 498-99 (Minn. App. 1990).  Written findings are essential to meaningful appellate review.  In re Welfare of L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 401 (Minn. App. 1985).  Failure to make written findings constitutes reversible error.  See id. at 400-401 (explaining findings required to (1) show that the juvenile court considered vital standards; (2) enable the parties to understand the court’s decision; and (3) enable appellate review); see also In re Welfare of N.T.K., 619 N.W.2d 209, 211-12 (Minn. App. 2000) (“[W]e have repeatedly emphasized the importance of [written] findings in our many published decisions that hold inadequate [written] juvenile disposition findings constitute reversible error.”); M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d at 499 (recognizing failure to issue written findings as required by Juvenile Rules warrants reversal); In re Welfare of L.B., 404 N.W.2d 341, 346 (Minn. App. 1987) (finding written findings necessary even though record indicated juvenile court considered options and had good reasons for its choice).  Here, the juvenile court failed to put any part of the modification order in writing, although it made some findings on the record.  The juvenile court’s verbal factual findings may be read to support the disposition, but in Welfare of L.B., this court rejected the proposition that findings on the record may substitute for written findings:

Finally, L.B. contends the trial court's findings are inadequate.  In addition to its written order adjudging L.B. delinquent for the offenses, the court made findings on the record.  Findings regarding guilt are sufficient if in writing or on the record.  However, the juvenile court must make written findings addressing the dispositional choices considered and the reasons for choosing a particular disposition.  These findings are required to guarantee the court considered vital standards, to enable the parties to understand the decision of the court and to facilitate meaningful review.  Omission of these statutorily mandated written findings constitutes reversible error.


404 N.W.2d at 346 (citations omitted); see, e.g., In re Welfare of J.L.Y., 596 N.W.2d 692, 696 (Minn. App. 1999) (rejecting argument that transcript constituted written findings), review granted (Minn. Sept. 28, 1999) and appeal dismissed (Minn. Feb. 15, 2000).

            This is not a case in which adequate findings merely need to be reduced to writing.  The oral findings fail to address either public safety or the best interests of the child, as required under the Rules of Juvenile Procedure.  Without the required written findings, we cannot conclude that the evidence supported the disposition. 



[1] Effective August 1, 1999, Minn. Stat. § 260.185 was re-codified as Minn. Stat. § 260B.198.  Essentially, this re-codification did not change the pre-existing laws:


The legislature intends this act to be a clarification and reorganization of laws relating to juvenile delinquency and child protection in Minnesota Statutes, chapters 257 and 260.  The changes that have been made are not intended to alter those laws and shall not be construed by a court or other authority to alter them. 


1999 Minn. Laws ch. 139, art. 4, § 1.