People in the Interest of B.B.A.M., 2019 CO 103

On a Colorado Appellate Rule (C.A.R.) 21 petition to show cause, the Colorado Supreme Court holds that a district court erred in upholding a magistrate’s order requiring the juvenile to undergo a second competency evaluation. 

Pursuant to the procedures outlined in § 19-2-1301 et seq., the magistrate found the juvenile incompetent to proceed and ordered the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) to provide outpatient restoration services and submit progress reports every 90 days.  The OBH restoration services did not begin until approximately four months later.  OBH asserted that while its providers could submit reports outlining the restoration services provided and whether the juvenile was engaged in those services, they could not offer opinions about his competency or restoration due to a conflict of interest.  Six months after the original competency evaluation and after OBH continued to assert it could not provide opinions about the juvenile’s competency, the magistrate granted the prosecution’s request for a second competency evaluation over the juvenile’s objection.  The juvenile sought judicial review and the district court judge upheld the magistrate’s order.  The juvenile filed a C.A.R. 21 petition and the Supreme Court issued a rule to show cause.

In making its rule absolute, the Supreme Court holds that the district court misconstrued § 19-2-1302 to order the second competency evaluation.  The Court concludes that the statute applies only to an initial/preliminary determination of competency and does not authorize a court to order a competency evaluation after a final determination of incompetency and the provision of restoration services.  The Court concludes that §§ 19-2-1304 and 19-2-1305 govern the restoration process; these statutes authorize the court to order a restoration hearing and require the court at the hearing to determine whether the juvenile has been restored to competency.  While the court may also find that a juvenile has been restored during a review hearing pursuant to § 19-2-1303(2), these provisions do not give the court the authority to order a second competency evaluation.

The Supreme Court also holds that the statutory scheme does not create a conflict by requiring the providers of restoration services to opine about the juvenile’s competency or likelihood of being restored.  The juvenile court depends on this information to periodically review the juvenile’s progress as required by statute and to hold a meaningful restoration hearing.  The Court reasons that under the statutory scheme, any individual agreeing to provide restoration services “should do with the expectation that he or she will report to the court the juvenile’s progress towards competency.”

Justice Boatright, joined by Justice Hart, dissents.