A federal appeals court ruled against the state and for the Hartford Courant Monday in the newspaper’s suit to overturn a new law that closes courtrooms and seals police records in the cases against some teenagers charged with the most serious crimes, such as murder, armed robbery and rape, reports the Hartford Courant. The decision by the U.S. Court of appeals for the Second Circuit affirms a District Court decision in Hartford in July that a 2019 state law denying the press and public contemporaneous access to the cases against 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds violates constitutional protections that guarantee the press and public access to the criminal courts.
The year-old law is among measures pushed in recent years by juvenile justice advocates whose goal is diverting teens from the criminal justice system and removing the stigma associated with arrest and prosecution for violent crimes. Supporters say teens — even those whose cases are transferred by law to adult court — require special treatment because they can be haunted for the remainder of their lives by the record of their crime. Under the new law, the records of those teens only become public when there is a verdict in the case, either innocent or guilty, or when the teen is convicted as the result of a guilty plea. “We are pleased that — for a second time — a court has ruled in favor of transparency in our criminal justice system,” said Andrew Julien, the Courant’s Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.