Los Angeles County Juvenile Court will be opened to media coverage regularly, with certain exceptions intended to protect the interests of children, reports the Los Angeles Times. Judge Michael Nash said he wanted to open the proceedings because secrecy had allowed problems to fester outside of the public’s view. Without access to the courts, news organizations have been forced to rely on incomplete case records released months or years after decisions were made.
Nash’s ruling applies to the dependency side of Juvenile Court, which largely means child abuse, foster care, and adoption proceedings. The order does not apply to the delinquency side, which handles crimes committed by children. Under state law, Juvenile Court judges are able to open a proceeding if a news organization makes a persuasive argument for it. The media virtually never prevail. Nash’s order shifts the burden of proof from news organizations to the parties involved in the proceedings. A Juvenile Court proceeding will now be open to reporters unless a compelling case is made to close it in the best interest of the child or children involved. Leslie Starr Heimov of the Children’s Law Center of California, which represents a majority of children in the Los Angeles dependency system, said her firm was considering an appeal to the order.