The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a set of uniform laws adopted by every state but Massachusetts*. One key purpose of the UCCJEA is to “provide a uniform set of jurisdictional rules and guidelines for the national enforcement of child custody orders.” In re J.W.S., 194 N.C. App. 439, 446 (2008) (emphasis added); see GS 50A-101 Official Comment. The UCCJEA defines when a court has subject matter jurisdiction of a child custody proceeding, which includes abuse, neglect, and dependency actions (A/N/D). See GS 50A-102(4). In North Carolina, the UCCJEA is found at GS Chapter 50A. Under the UCCJEA, there are different types of jurisdiction: initial (the first custody order concerning a child), modification (when there is a previously issued order), and temporary emergency jurisdiction. GS 50A-201 through -204. The focus of this post is temporary emergency jurisdiction. Continue Reading
Several years ago when I was an appellate attorney for the State, I filed a cert petition seeking appellate review of a court order granting a Rule 60(b)(6) motion to set aside an adjudication of delinquency for first degree sex offense. The court found that the allegations were proven beyond a reasonable doubt but then allowed the juvenile’s Rule 60(b) motion because the offense (fellatio) was four years old, it was not committed in a violent manner, the juvenile showed no risk of reoffending, and labeling the juvenile as a sex offender would do him more harm than good. Based on these findings, the court concluded that “extraordinary circumstances” existed and that justice required granting the juvenile’s motion. The Court of Appeals declined to review the order and still hasn’t addressed whether Rule 60(b) applies to delinquency cases.
District court judges throughout the state disagree on the answer (which I discovered during a lively debate in my first juvenile delinquency course at the School of Government). There is no clear answer, but appellate cases suggest that Rule 60(b) does apply. However, it may not authorize setting aside an adjudication order, as described above. Here’s why.