This opinion will be unpublished and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:
Filed April 11, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File No. J2-05-052647
Leonardo Castro, Chief Fourth District Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant County Public Defender, 317 2nd Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant K.C.H.)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael K. Walz, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent state)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.
Appellant K.C.H. contests the district court’s delinquency adjudication on a charge that he committed misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Appellant also disputes the court’s order of a stayed out-of-home disposition. Because the record does not contain facts sufficient to sustain the offense of disorderly conduct, we reverse the district court’s delinquency adjudication.
Following an incident at his school, appellant was cited and adjudicated delinquent for misdemeanor disorderly conduct under Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2004). The citation was tried in the juvenile division of the district court with a single state’s witness, the school liaison police officer.
The officer was substituting as a driver’s education teacher in appellant’s class on the day of the events before the court. The officer testified that appellant used profanities in the hallway in a loud voice while protesting the requirement that he attend driver’s education class and that the officer asked him to stop, stating that children were lining up nearby. The officer was called away and, when he returned, he found appellant seated in class. Appellant then stood up to leave, shoved the officer aside as he walked out the door, and continued to shout obscenities in the hallway. The officer instructed appellant to go to his office and, once there, cited appellant with disorderly conduct and assault.
Following a bench trial, the district court adjudicated appellant delinquent on the disorderly-conduct charge; he was not ultimately charged with assault. The court found that appellant had “engaged in behavior that included various obscenities not directed at anyone but stated in general with other people in the area. Based on the nature, phrases and manner this created an environment that disturbed others.” In support of appellant’s disposition, the court merged the delinquency adjudication with that from another case and ordered a stayed three-week placement in a juvenile-detention facility.
On appeal from a delinquency adjudication, we
are “limited to ascertaining whether, given the facts and legitimate
inferences, a factfinder could reasonably make that determination.” In re Welfare of S.M.J., 556 N.W.2d 4,
6 (Minn. App. 1996) (citing State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (
Appellant argues that the district court’s determination impermissibly punished constitutionally protected speech. See In re Welfare of S.L.J., 263 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. 1978) (“Whenever offensive language is the basis of a criminal charge, the court must determine whether that language is protected speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.”). The state acknowledges that appellant’s speech could not sustain a finding of disorderly conduct under Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2004). This statute punishes only the use of “fighting words,” which are “vulgar, offensive, insulting words [that] would tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” S.L.J., 263 N.W.2d at 419 (quotation omitted).
To qualify as fighting words, the language must be confrontational, and the determination must go beyond the district court’s finding that the words were “not directed at anyone but stated in general.” See id. (defining fighting words as “personally abusive” words “addressed to [a] citizen” and “inherently likely to provoke violent reaction”). Appellant’s use of obscenities alone is insufficient as a matter of law to support a delinquency adjudication for disorderly conduct under Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3).
The state argues that the delinquency adjudication could have been based on appellant’s conduct alone. But the juvenile court’s finding was premised on behavior that specifically “included various obscenities” and on disturbance tracing to the “nature, phrases and manner” of these words.
The state suggests that we should infer from the juvenile court’s limited findings and the record that appellant’s conduct justified a finding of disorderly conduct. Recognizing that the district court’s findings did not address conduct independently of the content of speech, the state proposes that we remand the matter for supplemental findings. But this suggestion fails to acknowledge appellant’s right not to be subjected twice to jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. See U.S. Const. amend V; Minn. Const. art. I, § 7 (prohibiting second trial on same offense). Equally as important, the record does not show conduct independent of the content of speech that might constitute disorderly conduct. Under the circumstances, we must reverse the delinquency adjudication.
Although we need not review the district court’s order of a stayed out-of-home disposition, we observe that the court failed to provide written findings in support of a disposition that departed considerably from both parties’ proposal of community service. Written dispositional findings are mandated by law to facilitate meaningful appellate review, and failure to make sufficient written findings constitutes reversible error. In re Welfare of N.T.K., 619 N.W.2d 209, 211 (Minn. App. 2000); see also Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 15.05, subd. 2(A) (requiring that dispositional order contain written findings).
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.