61 F.3d 86 (1st Cir. 1995), 94-2170, United States v. Three Juveniles

Docket Nº:94-2170.
Citation:61 F.3d 86
Party Name:UNITED STATES, Appellee, v. THREE JUVENILES, Defendants-Appellees, Globe Newspaper Company, Intervenor-Appellant.
Case Date:July 31, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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61 F.3d 86 (1st Cir. 1995)



THREE JUVENILES, Defendants-Appellees,

Globe Newspaper Company, Intervenor-Appellant.

No. 94-2170.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 31, 1995

Heard April 3, 1995.

Jonathan M. Albano, with whom Mark W. Batten, Alicia L. Downey and Bingham, Dana & Gould, were on brief for appellant.

Eileen Penner, Atty., Dept. of Justice, with whom Deval L. Patrick, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Jessica Dunsay Silver, Atty., Dept. of Justice, were on brief for appellee, United States.

Before TORRUELLA, Chief Judge, BOWNES, Senior Circuit Judge, and SELYA, Circuit Judge.

TORRUELLA, Chief Judge.

This appeal requires us to interpret and apply the confidentiality provisions of the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (the "Act"), 18 U.S.C. Secs. 5031-5042. We hold that the Act authorizes, but does not mandate, closure of juvenile proceedings. Although we disagree with the district court's

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interpretation of the statute, we nevertheless find that the court's decision to close the proceedings was within its discretion and proper under the Act.


On July 19, 1994, the government charged three juveniles with civil rights violations under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (the "Act"), 18 U.S.C. Secs. 5031-5042. The charges involved "hate crimes" allegedly committed by the juveniles as members of a white supremacist group. On the same day that the juveniles were charged, the grand jury indicted an adult, Brian Clayton, with violations of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 241 (conspiracy to violate civil rights) and Sec. 371 (conspiracy to intimidate and interfere with federally protected activities on account of race). The indictment charges that Clayton committed these violations as a member of the same white supremacist group to which the three juveniles allegedly belonged.

Just prior to the juveniles' arraignments on July 20, 1994, intervenor-appellant Globe Newspaper Company (the "Globe") moved to intervene in the juvenile proceedings for purposes of gaining access to the arraignments and subsequent proceedings, as well as to any judicial documents filed in connection with those proceedings. The district court allowed the Globe to intervene and granted it access to certain redacted court documents, but denied public access to the arraignments on the grounds that Sec. 5038 of the Act mandated closure of the proceedings. United States v. Three Juveniles, 862 F.Supp. 651, 658 (D.Mass.1994). The court alternatively held that, even if closure were discretionary, it would close the proceedings in this case. See id. at 658. The Globe argues on appeal that the First Amendment creates a right of access to juvenile proceedings, that the district court erred by interpreting the Act to mandate closure of juvenile proceedings, and that the factors set forth and relied upon by the district court in its opinion are not sufficiently compelling to justify closure of the proceedings.


The issues presented by this appeal involve the interpretation and constitutionality of certain provisions of the Act. Because these are purely questions of law, our review is plenary. See United States v. Gifford, 17 F.3d 462, 472 (1st Cir.1994); see also United States v. M.I.M., 932 F.2d 1016, 1019 (1st Cir.1991) (district court's interpretation of statute is reviewed de novo ).

The Act governs the detention and disposition of juveniles charged with delinquency. 18 U.S.C. Secs. 5031-5037. The statute also contains confidentiality provisions, set forth in Secs. 5032 and 5038. 1 Enacted in 1938, the

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Act was intended "to provide for the care and treatment of juvenile delinquents." H.R.Rep. No. 2617, 75th Cong., 3d Sess. 1 (1938). "[T]he Act's underlying purpose is to rehabilitate, not to punish, so as 'to assist youths in becoming productive members of our society ...'." In re Sealed Case (Juvenile Transfer), 893 F.2d 363, 367 (D.C.Cir.1990) (quoting S.Rep. No. 1011, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 22 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1974 p. 1267 (1974)); accord United States v. Welch, 15 F.3d 1202, 1211 n. 12 (1st Cir.1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1661, 128 L.Ed.2d 377 (1994). To this end, the Act attempts to insulate juveniles from the stigma of a criminal record. In re Sealed Case, 893 F.2d at 367-68; see also S.Rep. No. 1989, 75th Cong., 3d Sess. 1 (1938) ("[A] juvenile delinquent for whom there is some hope of rehabilitation should not receive the stigma of a criminal record that would attach to him throughout his life."). The confidentiality provisions of the Act are therefore quite essential to the Act's statutory scheme and overarching rehabilitative purpose.

Based on its reading of the statute and its legislative history, the district court held that the Act allowed it some discretion to disclose information about juvenile proceedings, so long as the disclosure does not contravene the "express mandate" of Sec. 5038(e) that the juvenile's name and picture not be made public. 862 F.Supp. at 658. This construction of the Act, according to the district court, is also consistent with the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence. Id. at 655-56 (citing, inter alia, Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court for the County of Norfolk, 457 U.S. 596, 608, 102 S.Ct. 2613, 2621, 73 L.Ed.2d 248 (1982)). We turn now to the Globe's contention that the district court's interpretation was in error.


As the district court recognized, the Act implicates First Amendment concerns, and thus must be interpreted with the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence in mind. It is well-settled that the First Amendment provides a right of public access to most proceedings growing out of adult criminal cases. See Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 3, 106 S.Ct. 2735, 2737, 92 L.Ed.2d 1 (1986) ("Press-Enterprise II" ) (First Amendment provides right of access to transcript of preliminary hearing of a criminal prosecution); Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California, 464 U.S. 501, 508-510, 104 S.Ct. 819, 823, 78 L.Ed.2d 629 (1984) ("Press-Enterprise I ") (First Amendment creates "presumption of openness" of voir dire proceedings in criminal case); Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 580, 100 S.Ct. 2814, 2829, 65 L.Ed.2d 973 (1980) (plurality opinion) (the public's right to attend criminal trials is implicit in First Amendment's guarantees). 2 This First Amendment right of access is not absolute, however. Competing values and interests may warrant a denial of access to proceedings and records in some situations. Press-Enterprise II, 478 U.S. at 9, 106 S.Ct. at 2740; see also Rivera-Puig v. Garcia-Rosario, 983 F.2d 311, 314 (1st Cir.1992). In such a case, reviewing courts must determine whether the closure is "essential to preserve higher values" and "narrowly tailored to serve that interest." Press-Enterprise I, 464 U.S. at 510, 104 S.Ct. at 824.

Since the "Juvenile Court" movement began in this country at the end of the last century, all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have adopted juvenile court systems. See In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 14, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 1436, 18 L.Ed.2d 527 (1967). The

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development of the juvenile justice system throughout the country has been marked by a "special sensitivity" about information regarding juveniles and "the impact that public dissemination of such information may have on the youths involved." United States v. A.D., PG Publishing Co., 28 F.3d 1353, 1357 (3d Cir.1994) ("PG Publishing "). Accordingly, many, if not most, states currently authorize or mandate closure of juvenile proceedings. 3 The Supreme Court has also acknowledged this tradition of confidentiality of juvenile proceedings. See, e.g., In re Gault, 387 U.S. at 25, 87 S.Ct. at 1442 ("[T]here is no reason why, consistently with due process, a State cannot continue, if it deems appropriate, to provide and to improve provision for the confidentiality of records of police contacts and court action relating to juveniles.").

The Supreme Court has never determined whether the First Amendment right of public access attaches to juvenile proceedings, and thus has not decided whether across-the-board closure of such proceedings violates the First Amendment. See PG Publishing, 28 F.3d at 1357. In a very instructive case, however, the Court addressed whether the First Amendment allows a statutory bar to public access to adult criminal trials during the testimony of sex-offense victims who are minors. See Globe, 457 U.S. at 607, 102 S.Ct. at 2620. Although the Supreme Court acknowledged the compelling state interests of protecting the victims from further trauma and embarrassment and encouraging other victims to come forward, it held that neither interest sufficiently justified a blanket closure in every case involving a youthful sex-offense victim. Id. at 607, 102 S.Ct. at 2620. The Court explained:

[A]s compelling as that interest [in protecting the minor victims] is, it does not justify a mandatory closure rule, for it is clear that the circumstances of the particular case may affect the significance of the interest. A trial court can determine on a case-by-case basis whether closure is necessary to protect the welfare of a minor victim.... Section 16A, in contrast, requires closure even if the victim does not seek the exclusion of the press and general public, and would not suffer injury by their presence.... In short, Sec. 16A cannot be viewed as a narrowly tailored means of accommodating the State's asserted interest: That interest could be served just as well by requiring the trial court to determine on a case-by-case basis whether the State's legitimate concern for the well-being of the minor victim necessitates closure. Such an approach ensures that the constitutional right of the press and the public to gain access to criminal trials will not be restricted except where necessary to protect...

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