I write in response to the June 18 editorial "The Escapee and the Judge," which criticized Superior Court Judge Natalia Combs Greene for returning a juvenile committed to city custody to the Department of Human Services for placement at a group home. The public deserves an accurate account of the law in this regard.
After the judge committed (sentenced) the juvenile in question to the Department of Human Services for placement at a group home, the youth absconded three times. Each time, the judge issued custody orders for the juvenile and, upon being taken into custody by the police pursuant to the orders, he was ordered returned to the group home. After the second abscondence but before being detained pursuant to the outstanding custody order, the juvenile was charged with a criminal offense. He was arraigned by a commissioner in the new case and securely detained in that case.
The editorial criticized Judge Combs Greene for returning the committed youth, questioning her "poor judgment." The premise of the editorial was seriously flawed, as it implied that the judge had a choice. The judge had no choice but to return the committed youth to the Department of Human Services for placement at a group home. The law compelled her to do so. D.C. Code, Section 16-2320 (c), along with D.C. Code, Section 2327, governs the court's authority in the placement of committed juveniles.
The court is without statutory power to intervene after a commitment. See in re J.M.W., 411 A.2d 345 (1980). Therefore, the judge in this case acted according to the law. For her to do otherwise would have been a clear violation of the statute and the law as interpreted by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
EUGENE N. HAMILTON
Superior Court of the District of Columbia