California Supreme Court Watch

Aug 24, 2022
In re N.R., S274943.

#22-233 In re N.R., S274943. (B312001; nonpublished opinion; Los Angeles County Superior Court; 20CCJP06523.) Petition for review after the Court of Appeal affirmed orders in a juvenile dependency proceeding. This case presents the following issues: (1) What is the definition of “substance abuse” for purposes of declaring a child a dependent under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (b)(1)? (2) Where a child is under the age of six, does a finding of parental substance abuse alone provide sufficient evidence to warrant juvenile court jurisdiction?

Review granted: 8/24/2022

Case fully briefed: 3/06/2023

Cause argued and submitted: 10/04/2023

Opinion filed: Judgment reversed: 12/14/2023

See the Court of Appeal Opinion.

See the Petition for Review.

See the Oral Argument.

See the California Supreme Court Opinion.  (In re N.R. (2023) 15 Cal.5th 520.)

“We granted review in this matter to decide two related issues associated with the exercise of dependency jurisdiction by the juvenile court.

The first issue concerns the meaning of ‘substance abuse’ as used within Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (b)(1)(D) (hereinafter section 300(b)(1)(D))….  We interpret section 300(b)(1)(D) as assigning the term ‘substance abuse’ its ordinary meaning — essentially, the excessive use of drugs or alcohol.  Although a professional diagnosis or satisfaction of the DSM criteria for the pertinent substance use disorder can be relevant to ascertaining the existence of substance abuse under this standard, we do not read the statute as requiring such proof….

The second issue before us relates to how these additional requirements may be established.  Some courts have held that the existence of substance abuse by a parent or guardian, by itself, amounts to prima facie evidence of both an inability to provide regular care for a child and a substantial risk of serious physical harm when the child is of ‘tender years,’ a term that is sometimes used by courts to describe young children with limited ability to care for themselves.  We reject this tender years presumption as inconsistent with the Legislature’s intent, as manifested in the statutory text….

Consistent with these conclusions, we reverse the judgment below and remand this matter to the Court of Appeal for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.”

Chief Justice Guerrero authored the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Corrigan, Liu, Kruger, Groban, Jenkins, and Evans concurred.