In In re A.N., the Supreme Court today upholds juvenile court jurisdiction over a minor who has four or more truancies in the same school year, regardless whether the minor had first been referred to a school attendance review board or a comparable truancy mediation program, or whether a fourth truancy report had been sent to her and her parents.  The case involves a ninth grader who was adjudged a ward of the court and was ordered to pay a $50 fine instead of completing 20 hours of community service.

The court’s opinion, signed by all seven justices, is by Justice Ming Chin.  Like many Supreme Court decisions, its heavy on statutory interpretation and legislative history.  The court says an opinion it issued over 30 years ago, that said use of a school attendance review board is a prerequisite to juvenile court jurisdiction of a truant, was abrogated by the Legislature in 1994.

Concerning the abrogation, there’s interesting stuff in the opinion about legislative “double-jointing” and determining which of two bills the Governor signed first.  Regarding whether a fourth truancy report is required, the court talks about a statute’s “grammatical problems” with a transitive verb and an abstract noun.

The court’s opinion admits to dissatisfaction with the result, saying it “may be in tension with several sections of the statutory scheme” and concluding, “When a habitual truant is adjudged a ward of the juvenile court but is never offered any services to address the underlying causes of his or her attendance problems, we question whether the statutory scheme functions as the Legislature expected.”  But, the court says, “it is up to the Legislature to resolve any such tension and to act upon such policy arguments, if it deems such action appropriate.”  A concurring opinion expands on that message.

Justice Goodwin Liu writes the separate opinion and is joined by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Leondra Kruger, and Joshua Groban.  (Separate opinions by a majority of the court happen occasionally.  (See, e.g., here and here.))  Saying that “[t]he jurisdictional statute at issue in this case is a funnel into what many call the school-to-prison pipeline,” Justice Liu suggests that, “[i]n light of today’s decision, the Legislature may wish to revisit what services or interventions are required before a student can be put onto this unpromising path.”

The court affirms the Second District, Division Six, Court of Appeal, but is critical of the appellate court opinion’s harshness.  Also, the Supreme Court’s reasoning differs from the appellate court’s on the fourth-report issue.