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In re N.R.L.

Supreme Court of Oregon, En Banc

October 3, 2013

In the Matter of N.R.L., a Youth.
v.
N.R.L. Petitioner on Review. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent on Review,

Argued and submitted March 11, 2013, at Lewis & Clark College of Law, Portland, Oregon.

On review of a decision of the Court of Appeals. [*]

Christa Obold-Eshleman, of Youth, Rights and Justice, Portland, argued the cause and filed the brief for petitioner on review.

Cecil A. Reniche-Smith, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause and filed the brief for respondent on review. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General.

Rankin Johnson IV, Portland, filed a brief for amicus curiae Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

Margaret Garven, Portland, filed a brief for amicus curiae The National Crime Victim Law Institute. With her on the brief was Amy C. Liu.

WALTERS, J.

In this juvenile case, we consider whether Article I, section 17, of the Oregon Constitution, which requires a trial by jury in "all civil cases, " applies to a restitution determination in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. Youth argues that he is entitled to a jury trial because recent constitutional and statutory amendments have transformed the juvenile restitution statute, ORS 419C.450, into a civil device through which victims of crime can recover monetary damages for their injuries. We hold that a restitution determination pursuant to ORS 419C.450 is not civil in nature and that Article I, section 17, therefore does not require a jury trial in youth's case. For the reasons set out below, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the Court of Appeals, which similarly had rejected youth's argument. State v. N.R.L., 249 Or.App. 321, 277 P.3d 564 (2012).

The pertinent facts are not in dispute. Youth was adjudicated delinquent after admitting that he unlawfully had entered a warehouse and damaged property -- acts that, if committed by an adult, would constitute second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal mischief. Before the dispositional hearing, youth moved for a jury trial, arguing that, under Article I, section 17, he was entitled to have a jury determine the amount of restitution that he should be required to pay. The juvenile court denied youth's motion and entered a judgment ordering youth to pay $114, 071.13 in restitution.

Youth appealed to the Court of Appeals, again arguing that he was entitled to a jury trial on the issue of the amount of restitution that he should be required to pay. Youth acknowledged that restitution traditionally has been understood to be a criminal sanction, but he contended that the enactment of Article I, section 42, of the Oregon Constitution, along with recent amendments to the criminal and juvenile restitution statutes, had transformed that sanction into a civil recovery device whose primary purpose is compensation for victims. A claim for restitution, youth argued, is best understood as a claim for monetary damages -- a claim that is indisputably civil and that therefore requires compliance with Article I, section 17.

The Court of Appeals rejected youth's argument, holding that a juvenile offender's obligation to pay restitution is "penal, not civil, in nature." N.R.L, 249 Or.App. at 332. The court first explained that, because the juvenile delinquency code did not exist at the time that Article I, section 17, was adopted, and because that code is neither criminal nor civil in the traditional sense, juveniles in delinquency proceedings generally are not entitled to a jury trial. Id. at 324. The court then considered and rejected youth's argument that, notwithstanding that history, the particular action of imposing restitution entitles youth to a jury trial. Restitution, the court explained, continues to serve deterrent and rehabilitative purposes and is not a form of civil recovery for the victim:

"Because we conclude that the amendments to the statute did not affect the predominately penal characteristics of the restitution award -- and instead arguably reemphasized the role of restitution in 'correcting * * * behavior' and impressing upon the offender 'the seriousness and cost of his offense, ' as recognized in Hart * * * we conclude that [the] juvenile court's order of restitution in a juvenile proceeding is penal, not civil, in nature."

Id. at 332.

Youth petitioned for review, which we granted to determine whether Article I, section 17, applies to a juvenile restitution determination under ORS 419C.450. We review the juvenile court's denial of youth's motion for a jury trial for legal error. See State ...


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