Department of Juvenile Justice
Counties' Rule Challenge on DJJ New County Cost Share Rules
The Consolidated Cases of
Volusia v. DJJ, Case No. 14-2799RP
Broward v. DJJ, Case No. 14-2800RP
FAC v. DJJ, Case No. 14-2801RP
Orange v. DJJ, Case No. 14-4512RP
April 22, 2015
Over 10 years ago, the Legislature established a cost sharing program for the state and counties to share in paying for juvenile secured detention. Section 985.686, Florida Statutes, provides that each non-fiscally constrained county is responsible for paying the costs of providing detention care "for juveniles for the period of time prior to final court disposition." See sec. 985.686(3), Fla. Stat. In addition, this statute created a cost-sharing system under which DJJ must give each non-fiscally constrained county an estimate of "its costs of detention care for juveniles who reside in that county for the period of time prior to final court disposition," based on the "prior use of secure detention for juveniles who are residents of that county, as calculated by the department." See sec. 985.686(5), Fla. Stat.
The counties and the Department have been litigating and arguing over the Department's interpretation of this statutory scheme since 2004. In the latest dispute, 27 counties and FAC filed suit against DJJ in a piece of administrative litigation, challenging new DJJ rules on the county/state cost share system. DJJ promulgated the rules in reaction to the First District Court of Appeal decision in 2013, finding that the Department's previous rules on this cost share were invalid. On April 22, 2015, the Administrative Law Judge in the matter entered his recommended order, finding that the new rules were invalid in part and valid in part.
FAC raised several arguments in the administrative litigation but the main one was the following:
That the proposed new rules enlarged, modified or contravened the specific provisions of section 985.686, Florida Statutes and that they were vague, arbitrary and capricious in several ways:
By including new law violations of probation in the definition of pre-disposition secured detention of juveniles and thus making them a county cost responsibility. FAC believed that ALL probation violations, whether substantive or technical should be a state, not a county, responsibility and that the legislative scheme so directed;
By the use of a new "two day rule," providing that detention days when the youth is on probation are the responsibility of the state unless the youth is charged with a new violation of law that has a referral date between zero and two days before the detention admission date. This rule captures circumstances when DJJ receives a referral date for a new criminal charge and assumes that if a juvenile is put in secure detention within two days of that referral date, that the detention is for that new charge, and thus a county responsibility;
By the use of the General Appropriations Act in the calculation of the county's cost share instead of wholly using a calculation of the share split between the counties and the state based on actual prior use, as is required by the statutory scheme;
By failing to seek input from the counties on the calculations that the Department makes for the detention cost share, as required by the statutory scheme; and
By failing to include a portion of certain statutory exclusions from the county's share, specifically preadjudicatory nonmedical education or therapeutic services.
New Law Violations on Probation.
DJJ's interpretation, in the new rules, that secure detention arising from a new law violation by a youth on probation is the responsibility of the counties was a reasonable interpretation of section 985.686 and was not clearly erroneous. Thus, the inclusion of the new law violations in the county cost calculation was valid.
Two Day Rule.
DJJ, through the new two-day presumptive rule, sought to automatically assign the responsibility for probationers who commit a new violation of law, and are in secured detention for up to two days, to the counties, without independent investigation as to the reason for the detention. The Two Day Rule, according to the ALJ is counter to the goal of accuracy and is therefore invalid because the rule would assign to the counties costs for which they are not statutorily responsible.
Use of Appropriation Amounts.
A legislative appropriation is not a cost of service; it is not "prior usage"; it is an authorization to spend. Section 985.686(5), Florida Statutes, requires that the counties' cost share bills be based on "prior usage". The new rule's billing estimation process, using in part the annual appropriation amount from the Legislature, overinflates the amount required to be paid by the counties on a monthly basis by continuing to focus a portion of the monthly estimate on the appropriation to DJJ, rather than the expenditures incurred for the prior year, which are based on "prior usage." Thus, the use of the appropriation amount in the counties' calculation was invalid.
Both the estimate process provided by DJJ's new rules and the reconciliation calculation process failed to provide for input from the counties and thus the new rules' failure to include this input is invalid.
Section 985.686(3), Florida Statues, excludes from the counties' funding responsibility the following: "the costs of any preadjudicatory nonmedical educational or therapeutic services and $2.5 million provided for additional medical and mental health care at the detention centers." The new rules incorporate a portion of this exclusion, but fail to include "preadjudicatory nonmedical educational or therapeutic services." The incomplete exclusion in the new rules is invalid.
On May 19, 2015, Volusia County appealed the matter to the First District Court of Appeal. As of December 21, 2015, Volusia County has filed its Initial Brief and the Department of Juvenile Justice has until December 22, 2015 to file its Response Brief.