December 21, 2017

In re: Henrry P.B.-P.,
327 Conn. 312 (2017)

H, a minor child, traveled from Honduras, where his life was threatened, to the United States in order to seek refuge with his mother, the petitioner, who lives in Connecticut. Five weeks before H’s eighteenth birthday, the petitioner filed petitions seeking, inter alia, the appointment of a co-guardian and juvenile status findings pursuant to § 45a-608n (b) so that H could obtain special immigrant status and avoid potential deportation. The Probate Court then scheduled a hearing on a date after H’s eighteenth birthday and ordered the Department of Children and Families to conduct a study related to the guardianship petition. Shortly before H’s birthday, the petitioner filed an emergency petition for findings under § 45a-608n (b), which the Probate Court denied. Thereafter, the petitioner and H appealed to the Superior Court from certain of the Probate Court’s rulings, including the denial of the emergency petition. The Superior Court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that H was no longer a minor, and the petitioner and H appealed to the Appellate Court. While that appeal was pending, the Probate Court issued a final decision denying the petitions seeking appointment of a co-guardian and juvenile status findings pursuant to § 45a-608n (b) on the ground that H was no longer a minor. The petitioner and H then appealed from the Probate Court’s final decision to the Superior Court, which dismissed that appeal. Thereafter, the petitioner and H filed a second appeal with the Appellate Court, which consolidated the two appeals. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgments of the Superior Court dismissing the probate appeals, concluding that the Probate Court lacked authority to appoint a co-guardian and to make juvenile status findings under § 45a-608n (b) because H had reached the age of eighteen.

On the granting of certification, the petitioner and H appealed to this court. Held that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the Superior Court’s judgments dismissing the probate appeals, this court having concluded that the Probate Court was not divested of authority to make juvenile status findings under § 45a608n (b) after H reached the age of eighteen during the pendency of the underlying proceeding: although the text of § 45a-608n (b) requires juvenile status findings upon the granting of certain guardianship petitions, there was no statutory language expressly conditioning the Probate Court’s authority to make such findings on the granting of such a petition; moreover, adding such restrictive language would be inconsistent with the maxim that this court does not read language into statutes and with the statutory (§ 45a-605 [a]) directive favoring a liberal construction of § 45a-608n, recognizing the authority to make findings under such circumstances was consistent with the overarching purpose of § 45a-608n, which is to facilitate access to the state court findings necessary for federal juvenile status petitions, which must be filed with federal immigration authorities before a child’s twenty-first birthday, and the legislative history of § 45a-608n counseled in favor of a broader reading of the statute as to those persons eligible to obtain predicate state court findings necessary to render available the federal immigration benefits of juvenile status.