In re Interest of Tegan V.

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In re Interest of Tegan V.

Caselaw No.
18 Neb. App. 857
Filed on
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

SUMMARY: The physical locus of a child at the time an amended petition is filed does not affect the subject matter jurisdiction of the presiding juvenile court.

Tegan, a child under one, was taken to the emergency room by her mother for second-degree burns on her face, ears and neck. The doctors determined that the mother’s explanation for the injuries did not match the burn patterns, and on December 7, 2009, the State filed a 3a petition. The court granted DHHS immediate custody. Tegan was then placed in foster care with her grandmother in Sarpy County. On February 23, 2010, an amended petition was filed additionally alleging that the mother did not visit Tegan and failed to provide proper parental care. At an adjudication hearing on March 8th, the county attorney indicated that the State would be moving forward only on the allegations in the amended petition. The mother’s attorney motioned to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to the child being placed in Sarpy County when the amended petition was filed. After briefs were submitted, the court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The State appealed.

The Court of Appeals reversed the juvenile court’s dismissal. It first noted that Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247 provides for juvenile courts having jurisdiction over “any juvenile” who lacks proper parental care, and that Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-282 provides juvenile courts with the discretion to transfer the case after adjudication if the child moves. The Court of Appeals also quoted a Nebraska Supreme Court case where the Supreme Court held that “in a proceeding under the Nebraska Juvenile Code, the State is not required to prove proper venue.” In re Interest of Leo, 258 Neb. 877, 881, 606 N.W.2d 783, 786 (2000). The Court of Appeals noted that Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-274, where a county attorney may file a petition regarding a child in his or her county, may be the only limitation on venue. But, in this case, the county attorney did file the original petition when the child was still living in the county. The Court of Appeals found that it would be illogical and inefficient to extend this requirement to filings of amended petitions. It concluded that the juvenile court therefore retained subject matter jurisdiction but after adjudication would have had the discretion to transfer the case to the Sarpy County juvenile court.