Petition to Copy Confidential Juvenile Court Records

In re Keisha T. discusses both section 827 and California Rules of Court, rule 1423. In that case, a newspaper "petitioned the juvenile court for permission to inspect and copy the court records pertaining to 10 minors" for "a story about the ability or inability of Sacramento County to protect abused and neglected children." (In re Keisha T., supra, 38 Cal. App. 4th at p. 226.) Several of the minors objected on the grounds it would not be in their best interests. (Id. at p. 227.) the court permitted inspection of the records and developed a procedure to provide guidance for their disclosure. ( Id. at pp. 228, 239.) The court considered the scope of disclosure under section 827. It stated: "It is the express intent of the Legislature 'that juvenile court records, in general, should be confidential.' The strong public policy of confidentiality of juvenile proceedings and records has long been recognized. Citations. Courts have recognized, however, that this policy of confidentiality is not absolute. The juvenile court, which is in the best position to determine whether disclosure is in the best interests of the minor, has been vested with 'exclusive authority to determine the extent to which juvenile records may be released to third parties.' Confidentiality cannot always be honored." (In re Keisha T., supra, 38 Cal. App. 4th at p. 231, fn. omitted.) Keisha T. noted that section 827 listed persons and agencies who were able to inspect juvenile court records without a court order, but also permitted "inspection by 'any other person' designated by court order." (38 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 231-232, fn. omitted.) Keisha T. noted that " case law has recognized that a broader category of persons than those enumerated in section 827 may be permitted access to material in juvenile court files in the appropriate case. . . . the cloak of confidentiality must fall to the rights of a criminal defendant to mount a defense. Portions of juvenile court records may also be disclosed in connection with civil proceedings independent of the dependency or delinquency proceeding involving the minor." (In re Keisha T., supra, 38 Cal. App. 4th at p. 232.) The cases show that "there may be situations in which competing interests require the disclosure of some material in a juvenile court record." ( Id. at p. 233.) The court also noted that section 827 "prohibits one who receives access to juvenile court records from independently making a decision to disclose such records to others not authorized by the statute or court order. It is the juvenile court, not the recipient, that has the authority to decide to whom juvenile court records may be released." ( In re Keisha T., supra, 38 Cal. App. 4th at p. 234.) The court adopted the balancing test in California Rules of Court, rule 1423, which "directs the juvenile court to balance the interests of the minors and other parties to the proceeding, the interests of the petitioner, and the interests of the public. Only information that is necessary and has substantial relevance to the legitimate need of the petitioner should be released." ( In re Keisha T., supra, 38 Cal. App. 4th at p. 240.)