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In re G. V. L.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 4, 2018

In the Matter of G. V. L., a Child. STATE OF OREGON, J. V. D., and C. L. Y L., Respondents,
v.
G. V. L., Appellant.

          Argued and submitted July 12, 2017.

          Washington County Circuit Court 16JU04638; Ricardo J. Menchaca, Judge.

          Christa Obold Eshleman argued the cause and fled the brief for appellant.

          Cecil Reniche-Smith waived appearance for respondent State of Oregon.

          No appearance for respondent C. L. Y. L.

          No appearance for respondent J. V. D.

          Before DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Hadlock, Judge. [*]

         Case Summary: In this juvenile dependency case, child challenges the juvenile court's order declining to take dependency jurisdiction over him and dismissing his petition. The juvenile court declined to take jurisdiction based on its determination that the harm alleged was speculative. On appeal, child argues that the juvenile court erred because he was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court as a matter of law. Held: The risk of harm was not speculative, and the juvenile court erred when it declined to take jurisdiction over child under ORS 419B.100(1)(c) and dismissed his petition.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [291 Or.App. 54] EGAN, C. J.

         In this juvenile dependency case, child challenges the juvenile court's order declining to take dependency jurisdiction over him and dismissing his petition.[1] On appeal, child argues that the juvenile court erred because he was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court as a matter of law. As explained below, we agree with child and reverse and remand.

         This case involves a child from Guatemala who left his home and traveled alone to the United States when he was 17 years old. He then filed a juvenile court dependency petition on his own behalf. At the jurisdictional hearing, child was the only party to present evidence; no other party offered evidence controverting child's evidence. Nonetheless, the juvenile court was not required to believe child's evidence. See State v. Johnson, 335 Or. 511, 523, 73 P.3d 282 (2003) (a trial court is generally entitled to find "that a party's evidence is not sufficiently persuasive").

         As we understand the juvenile court's ruling, however, the court did not disbelieve or otherwise reject child's evidence of his circumstances in Guatemala as insufficiently persuasive. Rather, the court ruled as a matter of law that the historical facts as established by child's evidence do not provide a basis for dependency jurisdiction. Given that understanding of the court's ruling, we describe the facts consistently with child's evidence and the court's few express factual findings, which relate solely to events that occurred after child arrived in the United States.[2]

         Throughout child's life in Guatemala, father regularly physically abused mother, child's siblings, and child. Over a year before child left Guatemala, he and mother left the home they shared with father. In a proceeding with local authorities, mother stated that she had left father because [291 Or.App. 55] he kicked and punched her. Father then began living with another woman and her children and thereafter provided little or no care or support to child. Child's family attempted multiple times to have the local township authorities remedy father's lack of support for and abuse of the family members, but the authorities were unable to help the family.

         In September 2015, when child was 17 years old, father saw child and child's sister on a road. During that encounter, father beat child severely and threatened to kill him once he turned 18. Child's sister witnessed the beating. After the attack, the local authorities met with the family members to address the family problems. At the proceeding, father admitted that he hit child and told the authorities repeatedly that he is not afraid of the applicable laws or other requirements. The authorities then asked child to forgive father. Soon after, child was chased by several men. He was later told by a child of the woman with whom father lived that the men had been sent by father to harm child. It was after these incidents that child, encouraged by mother, left his home with the intention to live with his brother in Oregon.

         Child was detained by United States federal immigration officials, in November 2015, after he entered the United States alone with no lawful immigration status. He was placed into removal proceedings and held in Texas until he was released into the custody of his brother in Oregon. In June 2016, when he was still 17 years old, child filed a juvenile dependency petition on his own behalf in an Oregon juvenile court.[3]

         Child's petition alleged that he was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court under ORS 419B.100(1)(a), (c), and (e). Specifically, child's petition alleged that he was within the ...


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