This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of A. A. M., Child.
Filed April 5, 2005
Ramsey County District Court
File No. J8-02-556495
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ann McCaughan,
Assistant Public Defender,
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Kathryn A. Santelmann, Assistant County Attorney, 50 Kellogg Boulevard West, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent state)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
A.A.M. was adjudicated delinquent on one count of first-degree
controlled-substance crime. Appellant
was placed at
Appellant A.A.M. agreed to deliver a package for a friend’s father in exchange for $100. A.A.M. admits that he knew that the package contained drugs. He was arrested after delivering the package to a confidential police informant.
A.A.M. was subsequently charged with first-degree sale of a controlled substance in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.01, subds. 3a, 15a, .021, subds. 1(1), 3 (2002 & Supp. 2003). The state then moved to certify A.A.M. to stand trial as an adult. A.A.M. agreed to plead guilty to the charged offense and to cooperate with the police in exchange for the state’s withdrawal of its certification motion.
was adjudicated delinquent and, based on the probation officer’s report, the
district court ordered an out-of-home placement at
2. The Court has reviewed and accepted the staffing report and/or the probation officer’s report from June 1, 2004, and adopts as its necessary findings for why public safety and the best interests of the child are served by this disposition order, and how this correctional placement meets the needs of the child:
a. Justification For Placement: The child’s behavior represents a direct threat to the community and self. The child is also at least one full year behind in school.
b. Reasonable Efforts to Avoid Placement: CRP; community service.
3. The transcript of these proceedings sets forth facts which support this disposition order and is hereby incorporated as to: (a) why the best interests of the child are served by this disposition order and (b) what alternative dispositions were considered by the court and discussed as to why they were not appropriate in said case.
The district court made no additional findings regarding placement. This appeal follows.
“[District] courts have
broad discretion to order dispositions authorized by statute in delinquency
cases.” In re Welfare of M.A.C.,
455 N.W.2d 494, 498 (
An out-of-home placement must be supported by evidence that the placement is the “least drastic step necessary to restore law-abiding conduct in the juvenile.” In re Welfare of M.R.S., 400 N.W.2d 147, 151 (Minn. App. 1987); see also Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1 (2004) (stating that in cases of delinquency, the district court shall enter a dispositional order “deemed necessary to the rehabilitation of the child”). “It is reversible error, both arbitrary and unjust, to impose a disposition without evidence that it is ‘necessary’ for the declared statutory purpose of restoring law-abiding conduct.” In re Welfare of L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 398 (Minn. App. 1985) (citing Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1 (1984)).
Necessity incorporates two
elements: public safety and proportionality.
Moreover, a district-court
disposition for out-of-home placement must be supported by findings that
address five subjects: (1) why public
safety is served by the disposition; (2) why the best interests of the child
are served by the disposition; (3) what alternative dispositions were proposed
to the court and why such recommendations were not ordered; (4) why the child’s
present custody is unacceptable; and (5) how the correctional placement meets
the child’s needs. In re Welfare of
J.S.S., 610 N.W.2d 364, 366-67 (Minn. App. 2000) (citing Minn. R. Juv. P.
15.05, subd. 2(A), and Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1(i)(5)(a) (Supp.
1997)). The district court abuses its
discretion by ordering a disposition without making the requisite findings in
support of its order. See In re
Welfare of N.T.K., 619 N.W.2d 209, 211-12 (
This court has previously
held that incorporation of the transcript of a dispositional proceeding does
not, by itself, satisfy the requirement that the district court make written
findings of fact in support of the disposition chosen. In re Welfare of J.L.Y., 596 N.W.2d
692, 696 (Minn. App. 1999), review granted (Minn. Sept. 28, 1999) and
appeal dismissed (
We acknowledge the administrative efficiency of the form and that in many cases the sound reasons for the disposition ordered are on the record, but incorporating the entire transcript into the order does not satisfy the written-findings requirement. Incorporation does not effectuate the purpose of having written findings, which is threefold: (1) to guarantee that the court consider the appropriate factors in reaching its decision; (2) to enable the parties to understand the court's decision; and (3) to facilitate meaningful appellate review.
In paragraph 3 of its findings of fact, the district court stated:
The transcript of these proceedings sets forth facts which support this disposition order and is hereby incorporated as to: (a) why the best interests of the child are served by this disposition order and (b) what alternative dispositions were considered by the court and discussed as to why they were not appropriate in said case.
This court recently considered the sufficiency of
identical findings. In re Welfare of
D.T.P., 685 N.W.2d 709, 713 (
[i]f the requisite particularized findings are made on the record and appear in a transcript, it is appropriate for the district court to incorporate those findings by reference into its order. But the transcript here does not contain the requisite findings, and the boilerplate language in paragraph 3 fails to identify the facts that support the court's disposition.
1. Best Interests
With respect to
out-of-home placement, the best-interest standard and the requirement of
necessity are intertwined. Parental
custody is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. J.S.S.,
610 N.W.2d at 367. A conclusory finding
with minimal elaboration that the child’s best interests are served by some
other disposition is inadequate.
best interests of A.A.M., the state noted that
2. Alternative Dispositions
There is no discussion in
the transcript of what alternatives were considered and why they were not
ordered by the district court. Instead,
the state simply declares, “[p]ossession of controlled substance in the 5th
degree for first offenders we send to
3. Present Custody
The rule that the district court must consider why the child’s present custody is unacceptable serves as “a reminder of the preference for placing children in their own homes, and it calls for attention to the families of the children. . . . Correctional placements cannot occur without evidence and findings reflecting consideration of the child’s familial relationships.” C.A.W., 579 N.W.2d at 499. Here, members of A.A.M.’s family testified regarding his home life and their determination to ensure that he “go the right way.” There is no indication in the record that the district court sufficiently considered A.A.M.’s familial relationships and no finding that his current custody was unacceptable.
4. Suitability of Placement
order for an out-of-home disposition must contain written findings stating the
reasons that the placement will be suitable to the child’s needs. J.S.S., 610 N.W.2d at 368. These reasons must be specific to the
individualized needs of the particular child.
See L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d at 400 (“If a placement is not suited to
actual needs of the child, it cannot serve the child’s best interests.”). Here, the transcript contains a very brief
statement by the state noting that the specific needs noted by A.A.M.’s counsel
“can be covered” by the drug awareness, educational and vocational programs at
Because the findings are inadequate to support the district court’s dispositional order, we remand to the district court for additional written findings of fact satisfying the statutory requirements.
Minn. Stat. § 260.185 was repealed and recodified in 1999 as Minn. Stat. §
260B.198. See 1999
 At first glance, J.L.Y. and D.T.P. appear to conflict. Compare J.L.Y., 596 N.W.2d at 696, with D.T.P., 685 N.W.2d at 713. These cases may be reconciled by noting that incorporation of findings contained in the transcript is appropriate, but that the district court must then take the additional step of identifying specifically which of these findings it is using to support its disposition.
 The state’s brief contains substantial discussion of the five factors and rationale supporting the out-of-home placement. But these justifications for the court’s disposition go beyond the district court’s findings and appear to be post-hoc rationalizations by the state.
 The transcript reflects that the state discussed the amount of cocaine involved and the danger that such drugs pose to the public.