A Baltimore judge has ordered state juvenile authorities to send a young car thief to a private reformatory in Pennsylvania, paving the way for an appeals court battle over the authority of juvenile court judges.
The state Department of Juvenile Services, which pays for the care of juvenile offenders, argued that Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan could not force the agency to spend $30,000 a year to enroll the boy at the Glen Mills School in Concordville, Pa., when a less expensive program is available in Maryland.
But after listening to conflicting arguments for more than an hour yesterday, Judge Kaplan said he still believed his order was proper. "If I'm wrong, then the Court of Appeals will tell me I'm wrong," he said.
Juvenile Services Secretary Linda D'Amario Rossi said she would consult with her lawyers before deciding whether to appeal the ruling. Other state officials said an appeal is likely.
The boy, a 16-year-old from Cherry Hill, was taken to Glen Mills after the hearing. The department still could ask an appeals court to return him to Maryland while it challenged Judge Kaplan's decision, said Deputy Attorney General Judson Garrett.
In court yesterday, lawyers for the department argued that a juvenile court judge could not tell the executive branch of government how to spend its money. "If all the judges continue to send youngsters to Glen Mills, we're going to run out of money. And then there won't be money for any other kids," said Ronald Levitan, an assistant attorney general.
He argued that judges may specify the type of program a youth needs but may not go so far as to name it.
But the prosecutor and the boy's defense attorney said Judge Kaplan did have the authority to select programs. "The ultimate decision lies with this court," said Assistant State's Attorney Mary McNamara.
In the end, Judge Kaplan used a different argument to justify his decision. He noted that there was no question he could name the type of facility a child needed and said he had in effect done that in choosing Glen Mills because its program is unique. "There is no institution in the state of Maryland that has the same characteristics as Glen Mills or even comes close," he said.
The Glen Mills program is based on the idea that even difficult youngsters will rise to the occasion if solid academic and vocational training are held in pleasant surroundings.