As part of the migration to the new case management system, information from more than four million existing cases was converted. Case data became available through the website on February 20, The initial availability of case information did not include detailed minutes of individual hearings.
The Court worked diligently within the parameters of the California Rules of Court to provide remote access to minutes in criminal and traffic cases. These detailed minutes for hearings prior to February 16, became available on March 4, The first juvenile court in our country was established in in Illinois. In re Gault U. They were profoundly convinced that society's duty to the child could not be confined by the concept of justice alone.
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They believed that society's role was not to ascertain whether the child was 'guilty' or 'innocent,' but 'What is he, how has he become what he is, and what had best be done in his interest and in the interest of the state to save him from a downward career. The rules of criminal procedure were therefore altogether inapplicable. The apparent rigidities, technicalities, and harshness which they observed in both substantive and [ Cal. The idea of crime and punishment was to be abandoned. The child was to be 'treated' and 'rehabilitated' and the procedures, from apprehension through institutionalization, were to be 'clinical' rather than punitive.
Hearings in the juvenile court originally were intended to be informal, nonadversarial and private in the belief that this was more consistent with the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile court than were the traditional adversarial proceedings employed in the adult criminal court. Further, one of the important goals to be derived by this "peculiar system" was the elimination of the social stigma and civil disabilities which derive from the label "criminal. Thus, because of the "realization that publicity, with its attendant stigma, generally impedes integration of a youth into the community" Note, Rights and Rehabilitation in the Juvenile Courts 67 Colum.
Since the goal of the juvenile system was rehabilitation, not punishment, "[t]he program, as envisaged, was to sacrifice the adult system's reliance on publicity as a deterrent in favor of a purely rehabilitative orientation. From the foregoing, it is clear and there can be no dispute that the history of the juvenile system has been one of private hearings, not public.
This utter lack of any history or tradition of openness in juvenile proceedings has led a number of state courts to conclude that the constitutional right of access does not extend to juvenile proceedings.
All 50 states, in fact, have some sort of juvenile shield law to limit public access. Therefore, we are unable to conclude that there is any historically-based constitutional presumption of openness applicable to juvenile-court [ Cal. Morgan Ga. Utah App. Sherman Pub. Goldberg R. Bradshaw S. Conceding that the history regarding our juvenile courts has been one of closed proceedings, real party contends that this history relates to juvenile delinquency proceedings and that the original reason for confidentiality and private hearings, i.
Real party also contends that because the values of open proceedings recognized in Richmond Newspapers through Press- Enterprise II apply to juvenile proceedings the constitutional right of access should extend to these proceedings as well. With respect to the first contention, we believe real party's characterization of the purpose for private hearings is too narrow. While admittedly the early reformers were desirous of removing the stigma which derives from labelling a person's conduct as "criminal," the reason they desired to eliminate the stigma was because such stigma was inconsistent with the primary purpose and mission of the juvenile court.
The system was designed not to punish but rather to rehabilitate the juvenile. County of Yuba Cal. In other words, it was the belief that publicity from public proceedings was inconsistent with and would undermine rehabilitation which led to private hearings. Moreover, private hearings were not intended to simply avoid publicity and its resulting stigma, but were also part and parcel of the informal and nonadversarial nature of juvenile court hearings. This again in turn was believed to be more appropriate to achieving rehabilitation.
Private hearings thus, traditionally, have been considered an important tool in the juvenile court system, both in terms of eliminating or reducing any stigma which might attach and, more broadly, in assisting in the rehabilitative process. While the stigma, if any, faced by a dependent child may be less of a concern [ Cal. In a dependency proceeding the state steps into the role of parent on a temporary basis in order to protect the welfare of the child and, if possible, to maintain the parent-child relationship.
Thus, section provides that one of the purposes of the juvenile court law is "to preserve and strengthen the minor's family ties whenever possible" and that, if the child's removal from the parent's custody is necessary, a primary objective in the proceeding is the "reunification of the minor with his or her family.
In re La Shonda B. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that protecting the minor victim from further trauma and embarrassment which might result when the child is compelled to testify in public is a legitimate compelling state interest. Globe, supra, U. Further, children who must face their peers in school might be subjected to special pressures if the matter is publicized.
In our view, there can be little doubt that the embarrassment, emotional trauma and additional stress placed on the minor by public proceedings and the publicity engendered by public proceedings may well interfere with the rehabilitation and reunification of the family. Further, the parents of a dependent child face a potential social stigma from public proceedings which would further interfere with rehabilitation and reunification. As an integral part of the rehabilitative process, private hearings in dependency proceedings assist in that process no less so than in delinquency proceedings.
Accordingly, we reject real party's contention that because there is no stigma attached to a child in a dependency proceeding the need for confidentiality is less compelling. We agree with real party's second contention that public access may play a positive role in the proper functioning of the juvenile court. Although private hearings were and are intended to further the rehabilitative mission [ Cal.
To the extent public proceedings serve the twin goals of assuring fairness and giving the appearance of fairness, the societal values of public access first recognized in the criminal context can be beneficial to juvenile court proceedings as well. The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that, in spite of the noble goals of the juvenile justice system, the reality often does not match the ideals.
As early as the court acknowledged the deficiencies in the juvenile system at least with respect to delinquency proceedings. In Kent v. United States U. Because of the "[f]ailure to observe the fundamental requirements of due process," the system is scarred by "unfairness to individuals and inadequate or inaccurate findings of facts and unfortunate prescriptions of remedy.
There has been praise for the system and its purposes, and there has been alarm over its defects. Pennsylvania U. These observations, made first in the context of delinquency proceedings nearly 30 years ago, remain true today.
San Bernardino County Dept. of Public Social Services v. Superior Court (The Sun Newspaper) (1991)
Public access may as well improve juvenile court practice and serve many, if not all of the societal values first recognized in the context of a criminal trial. To the extent open proceedings discourage perjury and might encourage other witnesses to come forward which in turn leads to more accurate fact-finding, public access to juvenile proceedings is beneficial. Richmond Newpapers, supra, U. Access may also serve to check judicial abuse. Because juvenile proceedings, in particular dependency proceedings, are civil in nature and intended to be rehabilitative instead of punitive, admittedly there is less concern of unjust convictions against which public access might serve as a check.
Matter of N. However, other equally important and constitutionally guaranteed liberties may be unjustly infringed upon in these proceedings. Nebraska U. Society of Sisters U.
In re Roger S. As against the state, this parental duty and right is subject to limitation only 'if it appears that parental decisions will jeopardize the health or safety of the child, or have a potential for significant social burdens. Yoder U. As is true with shocking crimes generally, the crimes committed against and the neglect visited upon children often result in an understandable "community reaction of outrage and public protest Public access to juvenile dependency proceedings can serve "an important prophylactic purpose, providing an outlet for community concern, hostility, and emotion.
Finally, public access serves an important educative function which is no less compelling in the context of the juvenile court. The public's ability to understand how the system operates and, in turn, its ability to make informed decisions regarding the need for positive changes to the system will be enhanced by allowing access to the proceedings.
Press-Enterprise II, supra, U. Having reached this conclusion, we find ourselves at the crossroad. Applying the first prong of the court's test, the historical experience factor, the constitutional right of access does not appear to extend to these proceedings because openness inhibits rehabilitation. But application of the second prong, the societal values of openness, i. The Supreme Court has not yet had occasion to address the issue of public access in this context. We can, however, find guidance from other decisions of the court. Returning once again to those cases wherein the court has addressed the deficiencies in juvenile court proceedings, we find that notwithstanding the admitted failures of the system, the court has refused to compel the states to afford the juvenile in a delinquency proceeding all of the same rights to which he or she would be entitled in the adult criminal setting.
United States, supra, U. In rejecting the claim that a minor is constitutionally entitled to a jury trial, in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, supra, U. We are reluctant to disallow the States to experiment further and to seek in new and different ways the elusive answers to the problems of the young, and we feel that we would be impeding that experimentation by imposing the jury trial. The States, indeed, must go forward. If, in its wisdom, any State feels the jury trial is desirable in all cases, or in certain kinds, there appears to be no impediment to its installing a system embracing that feature.
That, however, is the State's privilege and not its obligation. Finally we note that while the system has been criticized for its failings, at no time has the Supreme Court indicated that one of the reasons for its deficiencies is the lack of open proceedings. To the contrary the court has criticized the system for not maintaining adequately the confidentiality purportedly promised by the juvenile system In re Gault, supra, U.
Finding a constitutional public right of access would necessarily mean that the proceeding constitutionally could not be closed unless the judicially created strict test for closure is met. This would require the juvenile court to articulate findings that the state's admittedly compelling state interest in protecting the child's physical and psychological well- being and rehabilitating the child is overriding in the specific case and to narrowly tailor any order closing the proceeding or portions thereof to serve that interest.
Press-Enterprise Co. I, supra, U.
Evaluating the potential harm and prejudice which might result to the state's interest from public access is an elusive process and certainly cannot be determined with exactitude. With the welfare of minors at stake, we are reluctant to impose the strict standard for closure required for a First [ Cal. We find no such clear direction from the court. Further, we agree with the court's support of the proposition that the states should remain free to continue their exploration for a system best- suited for addressing the problems encountered by our youth.
A finding of a constitutional right of access may thwart or hamper that process by imposing rigid constraints on how, and under what circumstances, juvenile matters are handled. McKeiver v. Thus, although the court acknowledged that the juvenile system would benefit if there was greater public understanding, it also said, "I'm quite sensitive and troubled by the concept that somehow we're going to sacrifice the children. The exposure has been made, and I know that the realities of merely putting in the last names and giving the minor a new nickname-but you see, the exposure won't stop if I deny the motion.
The exposure continues. I think that everyone in the courtroom will have to agree with that, and everyone in the courtroom will have to admit that I wouldn't have the power nor the constitutional jurisdiction to even attempt a gag order outside the courtroom.
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The only control I can gain is by allowing the press in. The juvenile court clearly was without the power to restrict the press's right to investigate and publish information which it has lawfully obtained. Oklahoma Publishing Co. District Court U. Daily Mail Publishing Co. Here the court, through its conditions, attempted to prohibit the publication of information without regard to how the press obtained the information.
If the information was or is lawfully obtained, it is beyond the juvenile court's power to so restrain the press. Contrary to its statement that it did not have the power to make a "gag" order directed to the Sun, the court by imposing such conditions for access in effect restricted the Sun's right to have access to sources of information and to publish information lawfully obtained by it.
The court's condition regarding when and under what circumstances the Sun may interview participants in the proceeding such as the foster caretakers and mental health experts is an even more egregious interference with the freedom of the press and one for which we can find no support.
By attempting to restrict the press's newsgathering ability, the condition strikes at the very heart of the press's constitutional rights.
Cases filed in San Bernardino County Superior Courts
The last condition purportedly prohibiting the press from doing anything in the future which might interfere with the reunification process is so vague and overboard that it too results in an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of the press. While we appreciate the court's attempt to allow press access without "sacrificing the children," it went too far in its efforts.
The conditions cannot stand.
We are cognizant that by striking these conditions, we must allow the juvenile court to re-exercise its discretion as to allowing the Sun access to the proceedings in this case. As it appears to us that the court's invalid conditional order allowing such access was guided by its belief that it could exercise a measure of control over the Sun, the court may well determine, upon reconsideration, that uncontrolled press access would be harmful to the minors.
That, of course, is within the court's discretion. First, and foremost, the court's discretion must be directed at determining what is in the best interests of the minors, for that obviously is its primary concern at all times in the juvenile proceeding. At the same time, the court should give proper consideration to the important social values which are fostered by allowing public or press access to the proceedings.