Hickey v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court In and For County of Clark

Decision Date27 November 1989
Docket NumberNo. 19659,19659
Citation105 Nev. 729,782 P.2d 1336
PartiesGlen HICKEY and Chris Edward Hickey, Petitioners, v. EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT of the State of Nevada, In and For the COUNTY OF CLARK, the Honorable John S. McGroarty, District Judge, and the Honorable Miriam Shearing, District Judge, Respondents, Consuelo Hannl, individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of Tony Hernandez, Jr., Real Party in Interest.
CourtNevada Supreme Court

Edwards, Hunt, Hale & Hansen and Trevor Atkin, Las Vegas, for petitioners.

Eva Garcia, Las Vegas, for respondents and real party in interest.

OPINION

YOUNG, Chief Justice:

Petitioner (Glen) and his wife took a vacation to a Mexican resort, leaving their teenaged son (Chris) at home alone. In his parents' absence, Chris allegedly hosted a party at their house which lasted for several days. Apparently, the primary activity at this party was the consumption of alcohol.

On December 3, 1986, after allegedly consuming a large amount of alcohol, Chris took a gun from an unlocked gun cabinet, loaded it, and went outside to shoot. Tony Hernandez, Jr., Chris' friend who had also allegedly consumed a large amount of alcohol, asked Chris if he could shoot the gun. Hernandez obtained possession of the gun and began "acting crazy." When Hernandez complained that he could find nothing to shoot, Chris advised him to "shoot into the ground." Hernandez placed the gun under his chin and, while he was still joking, the gun fired and killed Hernandez.

Consuelo Hannl, the administrator of Hernandez's estate, filed in the district court a complaint alleging that Glen was negligent for leaving Chris alone in his home with access to the gun. On April 6, 1988, Hannl petitioned the juvenile division of the Eighth Judicial District Court for permission to inspect Chris' juvenile records. After receiving opposition to the petition, the Honorable John McGroarty, District Judge, granted the motion to inspect Chris' juvenile records. Judge McGroarty specified, however, that Judge Miriam Shearing, who was presiding over Hannl's lawsuit, would have to review Chris' juvenile records to determine if they were relevant to Hannl's action against Glen. Judge Shearing inspected the records and, on January 4, 1989, ruled that Hannl should be permitted to copy Chris' juvenile records. One week later, Judge Shearing entered a formal, written order granting Hannl's motion.

After Judge Shearing announced her ruling on Hannl's motion, Glen requested a stay of that decision. Judge Shearing denied the stay, and later that day, Glen filed in this court a motion to stay enforcement of Judge Shearing's order. On January 5, 1989, this court granted the motion for a stay. Counsel for Glen prepared a petition for a writ of prohibition challenging the orders of the district court. While he was serving the petition, however, counsel learned that Hannl's counsel had already inspected and photocopied Chris' juvenile records. Therefore, counsel drafted a supplement to the petition which requested a writ of mandamus directing Judge Shearing to exclude Chris' juvenile records from evidence in the lawsuit below and further directing Hannl's counsel to return to the juvenile court the copies of Chris' juvenile records.

Initially, we note that a writ of mandamus is available to compel the performance of an act which the law requires as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station, NRS 34.160, or to control an arbitrary or capricious exercise of discretion. See Round Hill Gen. Imp. Dist. v. Newman 97 Nev. 601, 637 P.2d 534 (1981). Further, a writ of prohibition may be issued if a lower court acts in excess of its jurisdiction. See NRS 34.320; Goicoechea v. District Court, 96 Nev. 287, 607 P.2d 1140 (1980). Neither mandamus nor prohibition will issue, however, where the petitioner has a plain, speedy and adequate remedy, such as an appeal, in the ordinary course of law. NRS 34.170; 34.330. See also Heilig v. Christensen, 91 Nev. 120, 532 P.2d 267 (1975), cert. denied 423 U.S. 1055, 96 S.Ct. 787, 46 L.Ed.2d 645 (1976). Finally, mandamus and prohibition are extraordinary remedies, and the decision of whether a petition will be entertained lies within the discretion of this court. See Poulos v. District Court, 98 Nev. 453, 652 P.2d 1177 (1982) (mandamus); Bowler v. District Court, 68 Nev. 445, 234 P.2d 593 (1951) (prohibition).

In the present case, Glen and Chris challenge orders of the district court which, taken together, compel discovery of Chris' juvenile court records. This court has previously held that extraordinary relief is available to challenge orders of the district court compelling discovery in civil cases of irrelevant or privileged material where disclosure of the material could cause irreparable harm to the party from whom the material is sought. See Schlatter v. District Court, 93 Nev. 189, 561 P.2d 1342 (1977). Because the disclosure of otherwise confidential juvenile court records could have far-reaching consequences on the life of Chris, we will exercise our discretion to entertain the merits of this petition.

The parties agree that the release of Chris' juvenile records is governed by NRS 62.360. That statute provides in pertinent part:

2. The [juvenile] records may be opened to inspection only by order of the court to persons having a legitimate interest therein....

....

4. Whenever the conduct of a juvenile with respect to whom the jurisdiction of the juvenile court has been invoked may be the basis of a civil action, any party to the civil action may petition the court for release of the child's name, and upon satisfactory showing to the court that the purpose in obtaining the information is for use in a civil action brought or to be brought in good faith, the court shall order the release of the child's name and authorize its use in the action.

Glen asserts that the statute quoted above draws a distinction between the release of a juvenile's name and the release of that juvenile's records. He also states that this distinction is reinforced in another statute which allows the victim of a crime committed by a child to be informed of the disposition of the child's case in the juvenile court, but prohibits the victim from disclosing that information to any other person. See NRS 62.193(8). Glen avers that this distinction safeguards the legitimate interest of the state in protecting the identity of youthful offenders and thus enhances the rehabilitative function of the juvenile justice system. Specifically, Glen states that under NRS 62.360(2), the only persons that can have a "legitimate interest" in the records of a juvenile are social workers, law enforcement agencies and other agencies that are involved in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Thus, Glen argues that the plaintiff in a civil action may obtain only the name of a juvenile offender.

Glen's argument is without merit. Initially, we note that juvenile court proceedings were never instituted against Chris as a result of the death of Tony Hernandez. Because NRS 62.360(4) applies only to civil actions arising out of conduct that led to the exercise of jurisdiction by the juvenile court, it does not appear that the subdivision has any application to the case at bar.

We also note that NRS 62.360(2) authorizes the district court to allow the inspection of juvenile records by any person "having a legitimate interest therein." See also Pickard v. State, 94 Nev. 681, 585 P.2d 1342 (1978) (confidentiality of juvenile records must yield to right of defendant to cross-examine witnesses regarding bias or prejudice in a criminal case). It is well-established that when this court construes a specific portion of a statute, the statute should be read as a whole and, where possible, the statute should be read to give meaning to all of its parts. See Nevada Tax Comm'n v. Bernhard, 100 Nev. 348, 683 P.2d 21 (1984). Although NRS 62.360(4) authorizes the disclosure to a civil litigant of the name of a juvenile who has committed a tortious act, the purpose of that subdivision is "to permit victims of juvenile offenses to seek civil redress" for their injuries by providing the victim with the name of the person who caused the injury. See State in Interest of D.H., 153 N.J.Super. 490, 380 A.2d 295, 297 (App.Div.1977). Thus, the purpose of NRS 62.360(4) is to provide the victim of tortious conduct with the name of a juvenile tortfeasor so that the victim may seek recompense for his injuries. To hold that NRS 62.360(4) limits a person proceeding under NRS 62.360(2) to discovery of a juvenile's name would deprive NRS 62.360(2) of any real meaning and would thus violate a basic rule of statutory construction. See Bernhard, 100 Nev. at 351, 683 P.2d at 23.

Further, nothing in the NRS 62.360 limits the class of persons who can have a "legitimate interest" in juvenile records; indeed, NRS 62.360(2) clearly vests in the district court wide discretion to determine the persons "having a legitimate interest" in juvenile court records. In exercising its discretion, the district court must balance the need of the requesting party for the records against the interests of society in keeping confidential certain juvenile court records. See Ex Parte State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 529 So.2d 975 (Ala.1988).

In the present case, Hannl alleges that Glen acted negligently when he left Chris at home alone for...

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