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After D.C. Superior Court Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo gave up on efforts to rehabilitate a mentally challenged juvenile delinquent, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled last week the judge will have to try a bit harder. When the juvenile, identified as D.L., violated probation in 2004, Puig-Lugo refused a prosecutor’s request to revoke probation and possibly place D.L. in a group home. Instead, Puig-Lugo ruled the child’s probation was “terminated unsuccessfully,” saying, “I think we’re trying to squeeze blood from a stone. He’s done what he can within his abilities.” Under D.C. law, a judge has a range of options to address juvenile probation violations, but simply closing the case as “in effect a failed attempt at rehabilitation” isn’t one of them, wrote Judge Michael Farrell of the appeals court. The court vacated Puig-Lugo’s order, stating D.L.’s case could be terminated only if the judge “determines by clear and convincing evidence that D.L. is no longer in need of care and rehabilitation.” D.L. didn’t get much help from his court-appointed lawyer. George Lane, who couldn’t be reached for comment, declined to file a brief, so Georgetown University Law Center represented D.L. on appeal.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected]

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