Keisha T., In re, No. C019041

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtMORRISON; PUGLIA, P.J., and SIMS
Citation44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822,38 Cal.App.4th 220
Parties, 24 Media L. Rep. 1193, 95 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7129, 95 Daily Journal D.A.R. 12,123 In re KEISHA T. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, INC., Petitioner and Respondent, v. KEISHA T. et al., Objectors and Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. C019041
Decision Date07 September 1995

Page 822

44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822
38 Cal.App.4th 220, 24 Media L. Rep. 1193,
95 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7129,
95 Daily Journal D.A.R. 12,123
In re KEISHA T. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, INC., Petitioner and Respondent,
v.
KEISHA T. et al., Objectors and Appellants.
No. C019041.
Court of Appeal, Third District, California.
Sept. 7, 1995.

As Modified Oct. 10, 1995.

[38 Cal.App.4th 225]

Page 824

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Kenneth C. Mennemeier, Sacramento and Jennifer P. Brown, Morrison & Foerster, Irvine and Valerie R. Park, San Francisco, Carol S. Chrisman and Denis Zilaff, Sacramento, for objectors and appellants.

Phillip S. Cronin, County Counsel (Fresno) and Howard K. Watkins, Deputy County Counsel, amici curiae on behalf of objectors and appellants.

Diepenbrock, Wulff, Plant & Hannigan and Charity Kenyon, Sacramento, for petitioner and respondent.

MORRISON, Associate Justice.

Welfare and Institutions Code section 827, subdivision (a) permits juvenile court records to be inspected by certain specified persons and "any other person who may be designated by court order of the judge of the juvenile court upon filing a petition therefor." We interpret this language to entrust to the juvenile court's discretion whether to grant the press access to particular confidential court records in juvenile dependency cases. At issue is the conflict between "the salutary function served by the press" in subjecting the juvenile welfare system to "the beneficial effects of public scrutiny" (Brian W. v. Superior Court (1978) 20 Cal.3d 618, 625, 143 [38 Cal.App.4th 226] Cal.Rptr. 717, 574 P.2d 788), and the need to protect the confidentiality afforded to society's most vulnerable members, abused and neglected children. Since the Legislature has entrusted the juvenile court with the responsibility for the care and protection of such children in accordance with the best interests of the minors and the public (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 202), it is appropriate that the Legislature has also given the juvenile court the authority to resolve this conflict between public and private interests on a case-by-case basis.

McClatchy Newspapers doing business as the Sacramento Bee, petitioned the juvenile court for permission to inspect and copy the court records of ten minors. The court conditionally granted the petition and eventually established a procedure under which a judge pro tem would release certain information in the juvenile court files to a reporter. The minors appeal from the court order, challenging both the decision to release the information and the procedure established by the juvenile court. We remand for further proceedings.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In December 1992, the Sacramento Bee petitioned the juvenile court under Welfare and Institutions Code section 827 (all further undesignated section references are to this code) for permission to inspect and copy juvenile court records pertaining to ten minors who were the subject of juvenile court proceedings. A declaration by Nancy Weaver, a reporter from the Sacramento Bee, indicated she would use the material to write a story about the ability or inability of Sacramento County to protect abused and neglected children. She explained county officials said they did not have enough staff to protect children. When she asked the director of the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) about the deaths of three abused children, he replied the safety net is "being ripped apart." Weaver and her editor agreed to abide by a protective order and not to publish or disclose the identity of the minors, members of the minors' family, those who provide care for the minors and their siblings, or those who reported any abuse.

The Department did not oppose inspection of the court records by the Sacramento Bee, but did oppose copying or any disclosure of the records. It had not agreed to the protective order and did not believe it was sufficient to protect the minors. The Department proposed a protective order that would allow a representative of the Sacramento Bee to inspect the court records, but not copy them. All names of individuals and identifying information would be held confidential. The Sacramento Bee would waive its First [38 Cal.App.4th 227] Amendment rights to disclose names learned from other sources and would allow the juvenile court to review any article for

Page 825

compliance with the protective order before publication.

Several of the minors and their families objected to the Sacramento Bee's petition, arguing disclosure would not be in the best interests of the minors, and many of the records were protected under section 10850, which requires confidentiality of records made or kept by federally funded public social service agencies. The minors also relied upon a recent case from the Fifth District, which held child protective services records could not be released to the press. 1

In June 1993, the juvenile court conditionally granted the Sacramento Bee's petitions, subject to a review of each case to ensure there was no reasonable likelihood of harm to the child or the child's interest (the June 1993 order). An in camera hearing to determine the extent of access was set for July. A protective order was issued, authorizing only Nancy Weaver to inspect, but not copy, the court files. Names of individuals were not to be published or disseminated and unique, identifying information was not to be published or disclosed. The disclosed information was to be used only for purposes of writing a newspaper article. Weaver, the Sacramento Bee, and its employees agreed to maintain notes and the information with the same degree of care as they accord highly sensitive information that is subject to the protections of the newsperson's shield law of Evidence Code section 1070 and not to disclose any names in the records, even if obtained from another source. Any request for this information from the Sacramento Bee, by subpoena or otherwise, would be disclosed to the court and counsel.

The juvenile court abandoned the in camera hearings and adopted a novel procedure to determine the appropriate access to the court records. A proposed order set forth a procedure in which a judge pro tem would first meet with interested counsel of record to discuss what information should not be disclosed and then meet with Weaver to answer her questions about the contents of the court records. The minors opposed this procedure.

Various declarations were filed, both in support of and in opposition to the release of the juvenile court files. Those in opposition stressed the need for [38 Cal.App.4th 228] confidentiality to ensure full reporting of child abuse and neglect and the need to establish and maintain the trust of children who are the victims of abuse and neglect. 2 The declarations in support of disclosure emphasized the need to keep the identities of all involved confidential, but stated the proposed protective order provided sufficient protection for the best interests of the minors. These declarations stressed the need for public education and awareness of the juvenile justice system. The Sacramento Bee also provided scholarly articles arguing for more openness in juvenile court proceedings.

After several hearings, the juvenile court issued its order governing inspection on July 7, 1994, nunc pro tunc to June 30, 1994 (the June 1994 order). The juvenile court appointed Morrison England as judge pro tem. After notice of the date of an inspection, interested counsel could request to meet with England in camera to discuss what information in the court's files counsel believed should not be released. In cases of disagreement, England would decide what should be released. England would then meet with Nancy Weaver to answer her questions about the juvenile court system as reflected in these records, including services provided to the minors and their families. England would also inform Weaver of any problems with the system or services reflected in the records. These proceedings would be governed

Page 826

by the previously issued protective order.

The parties reserved their right to seek review of the decision granting access, the protective order, and the June 1994 order. The presiding judge of the juvenile court would be present during the initial in camera proceedings to provide England with sufficient guidance. All in camera proceedings would be transcribed by a court reporter. The order noted the Sacramento County Grand Jury had concluded that day that "the County is failing to adequately respond" to the concern of abused and neglected children. The order was stayed until August 15, 1994.

The minors then appealed. They sought a stay of enforcement of the June 1994 order, which this court granted.

DISCUSSION

I. Appealability of Order and Scope of Review

In granting the stay, this court requested letter briefs on the issue of the appealability of the June 1994 order. We asked the parties to address [38 Cal.App.4th 229] whether the June 1994 order was appealable, and if not, whether we should treat the appeal as a petition for a writ of mandate or other extraordinary relief.

The minors contend the June 1994 order is appealable as a post-judgment order under section 395. Section 395 provides any judgment under section 300 and any subsequent order may be appealed. Under section 300, a dispositional order is a judgment. (In re Eli F. (1989) 212 Cal.App.3d 228, 233, 260 Cal.Rptr. 453.) The minors contend dispositional orders had been entered in all of their cases before June 30, 1994. Since the instant record does not contain the juvenile court records at issue, we cannot determine whether this is true. In any event, the Sacramento Bee's petitions were not part of the dependency proceedings; the petitions commenced a special proceeding on a collateral matter. The June 1994 order was not an...

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81 practice notes
  • Rlh Industries v. Sbc Communications, No. G034640.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 3, 2005
    ...and thus failed to offer the comprehensive legal analysis needed to affirm summary judgment on this ground. (See In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 237, fn. 7, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 14(a)(1)(B).) Accordingly, although we reject SBC's commerce clause argument,......
  • NBC Subsidiary (KNBC-TV), Inc. v. Superior Court, KNBC-TV
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 27, 1999
    ...and declining to recognize such a right, absent compulsion by the United States Supreme Court); and see In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 230, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822 (noting, but not deciding, First Amendment access issue in context of juvenile court 31 Rovinsky was decided under Sixth......
  • People v. Ybarra, No. F047855.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 18, 2007
    ...treatment as reflecting a lack of reliance on that aspect of their argument, which we have no duty to consider. (In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 237, fn. 7, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822; In re David L. (1991) 234 Cal.App.3d 1655, 1661, 286 Cal.Rptr. 398.) Since Cernas's and Ybarra's violat......
  • S.F. Human Servs. Agency v. Felicia C. (In re M.C.), No. A129528.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 29, 2011
    ...appealable as a final order in a collateral proceeding, in which case the time to appeal has expired. (Cf. In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 229, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822 [order granting a petition for press inspection of juvenile court records under § 827 “is appealable as a final judgm......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
81 cases
  • Rlh Industries v. Sbc Communications, No. G034640.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 3, 2005
    ...and thus failed to offer the comprehensive legal analysis needed to affirm summary judgment on this ground. (See In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 237, fn. 7, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 14(a)(1)(B).) Accordingly, although we reject SBC's commerce clause argument,......
  • NBC Subsidiary (KNBC-TV), Inc. v. Superior Court, KNBC-TV
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 27, 1999
    ...and declining to recognize such a right, absent compulsion by the United States Supreme Court); and see In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 230, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822 (noting, but not deciding, First Amendment access issue in context of juvenile court 31 Rovinsky was decided under Sixth......
  • People v. Ybarra, No. F047855.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 18, 2007
    ...treatment as reflecting a lack of reliance on that aspect of their argument, which we have no duty to consider. (In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 237, fn. 7, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822; In re David L. (1991) 234 Cal.App.3d 1655, 1661, 286 Cal.Rptr. 398.) Since Cernas's and Ybarra's violat......
  • S.F. Human Servs. Agency v. Felicia C. (In re M.C.), No. A129528.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 29, 2011
    ...appealable as a final order in a collateral proceeding, in which case the time to appeal has expired. (Cf. In re Keisha T. (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 220, 229, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 822 [order granting a petition for press inspection of juvenile court records under § 827 “is appealable as a final judgm......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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