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C. Other proceedings involving minors


  • -Overview-

    The Supreme Court has not recognized a right of access to juvenile proceedings or records. In “abuse, neglect, dependency, and custody matters . . . courts have hesitated to extend a First-Amendment-based right of access.” Dienes, Levine & Lind, Newsgathering and the Law § 7.01[2] (3d Ed. 2005) (collecting cases). In the absence of a presumption of openness, access varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

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  • 1st Circuit

    No reported First Circuit cases identified.

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  • 2nd Circuit

    Given that the Supreme Court has not recognized a right of access to juvenile abuse, neglect, custody proceedings or records, the confidentiality of proceedings involving minors varies from state to state. In the Second Circuit, the Court has upheld New York State statutes providing for the confidentiality of public agency records pertaining to abandoned, delinquent, destitute, neglected or adopted children. Alma Soc. Inc. v. Mellon, 601 F.2d 1225, 1229 (2d Cir. 1979).

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  • 4th Circuit

    The need to protect the physical and psychological well-being of individuals related to the litigation, including family members and particularly minors, may justify restricting public access, especially when the defendant may have cooperated with law enforcement. See United States v. Harris, 890 F.3d 480 (4th Cir. 2018) (citing, inter alia, Globe Newspaper Co. v. Super. Ct., 457 U.S. 596, 607 (1982)).  However, only the portion of the record pertaining to the perceived harm should be sealed. See id. (remanding with instructions to file a publicly available redacted version of a sentencing memorandum).

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  • 5th Circuit

    The Fifth Circuit has noted that the special status and vulnerability of child litigants can be a factor considered in overcoming the general presumption of openness. Doe v. Stegall, 653 F.2d 180, 186 (5th Cir.1981); see also A.L. v. Miss. Dep’t of Child Prot. Servs., No. 1:18-CV-00076-LG-RHW, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119590, at *2–3 (S.D. Miss. July 18, 2018) (sealing two photographs of minor plaintiffs in order to protect their identities from the public); C.K. v. Delta State Univ., No. 4:18-CV-060-DMB-JMV, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55489, at *2–3 (N.D. Miss. Apr. 2, 2018) (determining that Plaintiff’s status as a minor provided a clear and compelling reason to seal the docket and change the style of the case to reflect only his initials). The Doe v. Stegall case involved the question of whether the name of a minor could be withheld out of concern over reprisals after a parent sued over the perceived endorsement of religion in public schools.

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  • 7th Circuit

    “Juvenile criminal matters must be filed conventionally and under seal unless, after hearing, the Court Rules that the juvenile will be tried as an adult.”  C.D. Ill. Local Crim. R. 49.4(B)(3).  See also S.D. Ind. Local Crim. Rule 49.1-2(c)(5) (“documents filed in juvenile proceedings” “may be filed under seal without motion or further order of the court, provided counsel has a good faith belief that sealing is required to ensure the safety, privacy or cooperation of a person or entity, or to otherwise protect a substantial public interest”). Compare Avina v. Bohlen, 2015 WL 1756774, at *5 (E.D. Wis. April 16, 2015) (in parent/guardian’s civil rights action for injuries to his minor son, court rejected plaintiff’s request for “sealing of all court proceedings in which the minor’s medical and mental health records are presented” finding, “on the current record,” request was unacceptable).

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  • 8th Circuit

    There appears to be no Eighth Circuit case law discussing other relevant proceedings involving minors.

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  • Alabama

    Due to the personal nature of divorce proceedings, the Supreme Court of Alabama has held that the press’s right to obtain access to public records does not extend to divorce proceedings. Ex parte Balogun, 516 So. 2d 606, 610–11 (Ala. 1987). For good cause shown, trial judges also have the discretion to close the proceedings and/or the records to the public and the press to protect the rights of the parties. Id.

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  • Alaska

    Whenever circumstances subject a child to the jurisdiction of the court under the child-in-need-of-aid (“CINA”) statute, AS 47.10.005–.142, a preliminary inquiry and report may result in informal or formal hearings and proceedings. CINA hearings are now presumptively open to the public, except as provided in the CINA statute and unless prohibited by federal or state law, court order or court rule. AS 47.10.070(a). The CINA statute provides that child-in-need-of-aid cases are closed to the public during (1) the initial court hearing after the filing of a petition to commence the child-in-need-of-aid case; (2) a hearing following the initial hearing in which a parent, child or other party to the case is present but has not had an opportunity to obtain legal representation; or (3) a hearing, or a part of a hearing, for which the court issues a written order finding that allowing the hearing, or part of the hearing, to be open to the public would reasonably be expected to (A) stigmatize or be emotionally damaging to a child; (B) inhibit a child's testimony in that hearing; (C) disclose matters otherwise required to be kept confidential by state or federal statute or regulation, court order, or court rule; or (D) interfere with a criminal investigation or proceeding or a criminal defendant's right to a fair trial in a criminal proceeding. AS 47.10.070(c). If a hearing, or part of a hearing, in a child-in-need-of-aid case is not closed under this subsection .070(c), the court shall hear in camera any information offered regarding the location, or readily leading to the location, of a parent, child or other party to the case who is a victim of domestic violence or whose safety or welfare may be endangered by public release of the information. Access to testimony heard in camera under this subsection is limited to the court and authorized court personnel. AS 47.10.070(d). Notwithstanding any other provision of the CINA statute, a person attending a hearing open to the public may not disclose a name, picture or other information that would readily lead to the identification of a child who is the subject of the child-in-need-of-aid case. At the beginning of the hearing, the court must issue an order specifying the restrictions necessary to comply with this subsection. If a person violates the order, the court may impose any appropriate sanction, including contempt and closure of any further hearings to the person. AS 47.10.070(f). Also, the CINA statute provides for adjudication hearings to determine whether the child is or is not a child in need of aid, and, if so, to determine an appropriate disposition for the matter, which might include releasing the child to parents or others, making the child a ward of the state, committing the child to the custody of the Department of Health and Social Services, to a foster home, and hearings concerning a “permanency plan” for the child or termination of parental rights. A hearing conducted under this section is open to the public unless an exception provided in AS 47.10.070 (c) applies to make the hearing closed to the public or unless prohibited by federal or state statute or regulation. AS 47.10.080(u).

    With respect to use of cameras or electronic devices to cover court proceedings, Alaska Admin. R. 50(a)(3)(C) provides that a minor may not be photographed, filmed, videotaped, sketched, or recorded, nor may the minor’s image or voice be broadcast, streamed, or posted on the internet, unless the minor is being prosecuted as an adult in a criminal case.

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  • Arizona

    A juvenile court judge’s decision to admit the media to a hearing on whether to have a juvenile prosecuted as an adult does not violate Arizona’s constitution (requiring the holding of a juvenile proceeding “in chambers”) since historical meaning of in chambers did not entail exclusion of the public.  Wideman v. Garbarino, 770 P.2d 320 (Ariz. 1989).

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  • Arkansas

    The record and accompanying briefs, motions, or other filings in all adoption appeals shall be sealed. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-3(a). The Clerk shall ensure that the public docket use initials to identify juveniles in those appeals. Counsel and the Court shall preserve the juvenile’s anonymity by using initials in all subsequent captions, opinions, motions, and briefs, as well as in oral argument, if any. The record and papers on appeal shall be open for inspection only to counsel and parties of record, or, only upon order of the Court after review of a written motion.

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  • California

    Under Welfare & Institutions Code § 827, juvenile court records are generally confidential. However, the statute permits access by anyone “who may be designated by court order of the judge of the juvenile court upon filing a petition.” Id. § 827(a)(1)(P). This provision allows for press access on a case-by-case basis, in which the court balances the interests of the minors and other parties to the proceeding against the need for disclosure. See In re Keisha T., 38 Cal. App. 4th 220, 239-40, 44 Cal. Rptr. 2d 822 (1995); Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 5.552(d). See also Appendix 1, Trial Court Records Manual, available at (providing a complete list of court records designated confidential by statute or rule). “Under appropriate circumstances, a juvenile court may order the release of juvenile court records to the press.” City of Eureka v. Superior Court of Humboldt County, 1 Cal. App. 5th 755, 762, 205 Cal. Rptr. 3d 134, 138 (2016) (citing In re Keisha T., 38 Cal. App. 4th at 236) (ultimately holding that video of police arresting minor was not a confidential personnel record protected from disclosure).

    To request access to juvenile court records, a member of the press must file a petition with the court, and the minor and other interested parties must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard. In re Keisha T., 38 Cal. App. 4th at 240. The petitioner must identify the specific records being sought and the purpose of the request, and follow certain notification procedures. See Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 5.552(c)-(d).

    For delinquency records, when a petition is sustained for one of the serious criminal offenses listed in Welfare & Institutions Code § 676(a), documents including the charging petition, minutes of the proceeding, and orders of adjudication and disposition are public. See id. § 676(d). However, the juvenile court can prohibit access at the request of a probation officer or any party to the proceeding if the judge concludes that harm to a minor, victim, witness, or the public from disclosure outweighs the benefits of public access. See id. § 676(e).

    When a child who was under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court dies, there is a presumption of public access to the child’s case files. See Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 827(a)(2). “Thus, where the child whose records are sought has died, no weighing or balancing of interests is required; the files shall be released unless there is a showing that release of the juvenile case file or any portion thereof is detrimental to the safety, protection, or physical, or emotional well-being of another child who is directly or indirectly connected to the juvenile case that is the subject of the petition.” In re Elijah S., 125 Cal. App. 4th 1532, 1542-1543, 24 Cal. Rptr. 3d 16 (2005) (internal quotations omitted); see also Pack v. Kings County Human Servs. Agency, 89 Cal. App. 4th 821, 107 Cal. Rptr. 2d 594 (2001) (affirming order denying access to records because redaction would not sufficiently protect privacy interests of living child). Members of the press seeking such records must bring petitions according to the procedures set forth in the statute. See Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 827(a)(2); Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 5.553.

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  • Colorado

    The Colorado Judicial Department’s Public Access to Court Records policy (“Public Access Policy”) (pdf) excludes from public access certain classes of cases, absent a court order, including adoption, dependency and neglect, judicial bypass, juvenile delinquency, conservatorship or guardianship proceedings for a minor, paternity, and truancy.  (See Section 4.60(b).)  In addition, the Public Access Policy prohibits access to certain kinds of court records, absent a court order, including child abuse investigation reports, which the court determines contain personal or confidential information; certain domestic relations documents, including parenting plans; evaluations and reports filed by a child and family investigator, a child’s legal representative, or relating to the allocation of parental responsibilities; and scholastic achievement data on individuals, among many other categories. (See Section 4.60(d).)

    The Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act prohibits the disclosure the name or other identifying information of any child victim of certain enumerated crimes.  C.R.S. § 24-72-304(4.5).

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  • Connecticut

    Under the Juvenile Transfer Act, adopted by the Connecticut legislature in October 2019, defendants between the ages of fifteen and eighteen who are charged with certain felonies and whose cases are transferred to adult criminal court will have their cases shielded from public view, even though these are not delinquency proceedings. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-127(a)–(b). The Hartford Courant has filed suit challenging the constitutionality of this provision.

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  • Delaware

    The right to access to guardianship proceedings are reviewed under the common law “good cause” standard.  In the Matter of John E. DuPont, 25 Med. L. Rep. 2435 (Del. Ch. June 20, 1997).

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  • District of Columbia

    In Morgan v. Foretich, 521 A.2d 248 (D.C. 1987) the D.C. Court of Appeals held that “the presumption of openness that underlies the Press-Enterprise standard does not attach to the evidentiary phase of a civil contempt hearing in a child custody and visitation rights case. Openness or closure must be determined on a case by case basis with no presumption attaching to either.” Id. at 253. “The trial court must balance the qualified due process right of the contemnor to an open civil contempt proceeding against the best interests and possible privacy rights of the child and the reputational or other interests of those opposing an open hearing.” Id.

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  • Florida

    Hearings in adoption proceedings are closed. Fla. Stat. § 63.162(1); see In re Adoption of H.Y.T., 458 So. 2d 1127 (Fla. 1984) (upholding statute requiring closure of all adoption hearings as constitutional). Court files for adoption cases are also closed. Fla. Stat. § 63.162(2). In that regard, identifying information regarding the birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee may not be disclosed unless a birth parent, adoptive parent, or adoptee has authorized in writing the release of such information concerning himself or herself; see also Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(d)(1)(B)(ii) (noting that clerks must automatically seal adoption records). So, for example, the names of parties and adopted children are confidential, but not the case numbers. A.D. v. M.D.M., 920 so. 2d 857 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006). The court has discretion to restrict access to paternity hearings, as well. Fla. Stat. § 742.031(1).

    Dissolution proceedings and records are presumptively open, and the standards of Barron v. Florida Freedom Newspapers, Inc., 531 So. 2d 113 (Fla. 1988), apply. Barron itself involved dissolution proceedings. Under Barron, to overcome the strong presumption of openness in civil proceedings, a proponent of closure must satisfy a three-prong test. The first prong requires a proponent to show that closure is necessary. One reason that closure may be necessary is for “to avoid substantial injury to innocent third parties [e.g., to protect young witnesses from offensive testimony; to protect children in a divorce].” Id. at 118. For privacy concerns, “it is generally the content of the subject matter rather than the status of the party that determines whether a privacy interest exists” that permits closure. Id. However, the privacy interest can be negated where “the content of the subject matter directly concerns a position of public trust held by the individual seeking closure.” Id. Second, the court must find that no reasonable alternatives exist to reach the desired result. Id. Finally, if no reasonable alternative exists then the court must ensure that the means are the least restrictive necessary to accomplish the goal. Id.

    Section 28.2221, Florida Statutes, provides that the Clerk may not place an image or copy of a court file, record, or paper relating to matters or cases arising under the Rules of Family Law on a publicly available website for general public display.

    Where a minor seeking to terminate a pregnancy petitions the court for a waiver of the notice requirements, hearings conducted in accordance with that petition are confidential and closed to the public. Fla. Stat. § 390.01114(6)(f).

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  • Georgia

    Georgia’s juvenile code affords a presumptive statutory right of public access to certain specified proceedings involving minors, O.C.G.A. § 15-11-700, and related records, O.C.G.A. § 15-11-704(b). These specifically include child support hearings and hearings in legitimation actions. O.C.G.A. §§ 15-11-700(b)(3); 15-11-700(b)(4).

    In the case of other proceedings involving minors, the Georgia Supreme Court has held that, based on constitutional considerations, the public and/or press must be given an opportunity to show that the state’s or juveniles’ interest in a closed hearing is not overriding or compelling, in which case access must be granted. Florida Publ’g Co. v. Morgan, 253 Ga. 467 (1984).

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  • Hawaii

    HRS § 571-84(f) states, “Any police records concerning traffic accidents in which a minor . . . is involved . . . shall be available for inspection by the parties directly concerned in the accident or their duly licensed attorneys acting under written authority signed by either party.”

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  • Idaho

    The court may exclude the public from actions for divorce, annulment, civil protection orders, seduction, criminal conversation (adultery), or breach of promise of marriage.  Idaho R. Civ. Pro. 77(b).

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  • Illinois

    In a motion for declaratory relief that a “Family Agreement” was in the best interests of the minor beneficiaries, the privacy interests of minors were insufficient to justify closure of the entire case file. A.P. v. M.E.E., 354 Ill. App. 3d 989, 996, 821 N.E.2d 1238, 1246, 290 Ill. Dec. 664, 672 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 2004). Because not every document in the file was related to the minors’ privacy and other concerns, the appellate court held that the seal was invalid and returned the sealed file to the circuit court so that it could determine the particular offending documents. Id. at 1002, 821 N.E.2d at 1252, 290 Ill. Dec. at 678.

    In a divorce proceeding between two entertainment celebrities, the appellate court closely scrutinized the trial court’s redactions of the complaint, reversing in part where the redactions contained no confidential or identifying information regarding the minors involved.  In re Marriage of Kelly, 2020 IL App (1st) 200130, ¶ 35 (nonprecedential opinion).

    Adoption. In Illinois, the Adoption Act specifies that the court and court records should identify the parties by initial or pseudonym. 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 50/18(b) (West 2022). Also, the court records are to be impounded, and they may be viewed only by leave of court or by the guardian ad litem during the pendency of the proceeding. Id. at 18(c). Confidentiality in adoption proceedings “protects the interests of biological parents, adopting parents, and adopted minors.” In re J.D., 317 Ill. App. 3d 419, 427, 739 N.E.2d 1036, 1042, 251 Ill. Dec. 103, 109 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th Dist. 2000) (emphasis in original). The court in J.D. held that appellate courts should maintain this confidentiality on habeas petitions attacking the grant of adoption despite the legislature’s omission of such proceedings under the Adoption Act. Id. at 427, 739 N.E.2d at 1043, 251 Ill. Dec. at 110.

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  • Indiana

    Paternity records created after July 1, 1941 and before July 1, 2014 that were confidential under statutes in force between those dates are excluded from the public record. Public Law 1-2014, effective July 1, 2014, changed the blanket exclusion of juvenile paternity records. Under the current rule, juvenile paternity case records created on or after July 1, 2014, are accessible to the public, except as Administrative Rule 9(G) and other state and federal laws deem them not confidential. See Order Amending Administrative Rules:

    Further, many records associated with adoptions are confidential, including adoption petitions and evidence from adoption hearings. Ind. Code § 31-19-19-1(a). Files and records of the court pertaining to adoption proceedings are not open to public inspection, except as provided in Indiana Code Section 31-19-13-2(2). Ind. Code § 31-19-19-1(b).

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  • Iowa

    In Iowa, public attendance at certain proceedings is limited by statute. Hearings for dissolution of marriage are held in open court; however, the court may close a dissolution hearing in its discretion. Iowa Code § 598.8 (2018). Hearings held for the purpose of determining child custody may be limited in attendance by the court. Iowa Code § 598.8 (2018). Similarly, attendance at adoption hearings are limited. Iowa Code § 600.12 (2018). Only certain parties, including those persons notified, their witnesses, legal counsel, and persons requested by the court to be present are allowed to be present during adoption hearings. Iowa Code § 600.12 (2018).

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  • Kansas

    Under the Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act, K.S.A. 59-2111 et seq., records of adoptions “shall not be open to inspection or copy by persons other than the parties in interest and their attorneys” and certain others, absent an order of the court.  K.S.A. 59-2122(a).  However, the Act sets forth a procedure for “genetic parents” to contact the adoptive parents through the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.  K.S.A. 59-2122(b).

    Under the Kansas Parentage Act, K.S.A. 23-2201 et seq., court findings that form the basis for a new birth registration, as well as the original birth certificate, “shall be kept in a sealed and confidential file and be subject to inspection only in exceptional cases upon order of the court for good cause shown” or in connection with child support enforcement services.  K.S.A. 23-2222(c).

    Kansas law does not close records in divorce cases.  As a state agency reports, “Divorce information is open to the public at the county district court level.”  Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Divorce Certificates,

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  • Kentucky

    Adoption and paternity cases in Kentucky are presumptively closed.  See KRS 625.045.  Divorce cases are presumptively open.  However, child custody proceedings in divorce cases may be closed by the court upon a finding “that a public hearing may be detrimental to the child’s best interests.”  KRS 403.310(3).  Also, “[i]f the court finds it necessary to protect the child’s welfare that the record of any interview, report, investigation, or testimony in a custody proceeding be kept secret, the court may make an appropriate order sealing the record.”  KRS 403.310(4).

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  • Louisiana

    Most other proceedings involving minors in the juvenile courts are confidential. Article 407 of the Louisiana Children’s Code states: “With the exceptions of delinquency proceedings . . . child support proceedings, traffic violations . . . and misdemeanor trials of adults . . . proceedings before the juvenile court shall not be public.” La. Ch. C. art. 407.

    Divorce and custody proceedings in the district courts are treated the same as other civil cases. See “Access to Civil Proceedings” and “Access to Civil Records” sections above.

    In Copeland v. Copeland, 930 So.2d 940 (La. 2006), the District Court, on joint motion of the parties, issued an order sealing the entire record of the divorce proceedings of a wealthy and famous local businessman. The District Court denied a newspaper’s motion to intervene to challenge the sealing order. The Court of Appeal denied the newspaper’s writ application. The Supreme Court then granted a writ, found “the trial court’s blanket order sealing the entire record in this case to be overbroad,” and vacated and remanded. The Supreme Court required a “specific showing that [the parties’] privacy interest outweigh the public’s constitutional right of access to the record” and further required that orders sealing records be “narrowly tailored to cause the least interference with the right of public access.” On remand, the District Court ordered almost all of the documents in the record sealed. The Court of Appeal denied a new writ application, and the Supreme Court again granted a writ. This time, the Supreme Court ordered the entire record unsealed, with redaction of only the name of the children’s school and the location of the family home—the only information that “would imperil the safety of the [parties’] children.” Copeland v. Copeland, 966 So.2d 1040, 1048 (La. 2007).

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  • Maine

    With regard to adoption, the results of background checks received by the court are generally confidential. 18-C M.R.S.A. § 9-304.1.B(6). If the court determines that it is in the best interests of the child, the court may also order that the names of the child and of the petitioner be kept confidential. 18-C M.R.S.A. § 9-308.3. “Any medical or genetic information in the court records relating to an adoption must be made available to the adopted child upon reaching the age of 18 and to the adopted child’s descendants, adoptive parents or legal guardian on petition of the court.” 18-C M.R.S.A. § 9-310. Finally, all Probate Court records relating to any adoption decreed on or after August 8, 1953, are confidential. Id. The Probate Court must keep records of those adoptions segregated from all other court records. If a judge of probate court determines that examination of records pertaining to a particular adoption is proper, the judge may authorize that examination by specified persons, authorize the register of probate to disclose to specified persons any information contained in the records by letter, certificate or copy of the record or authorize a combination of both examination and disclosure. However, “An adopted person, the adopted person’s attorney or, if the adopted person is deceased, the adopted person’s descendants may obtain a copy of that person’s original certificate of birth from the State Registrar of Vital Statistics[.]” 22 M.R.S.A. § 2768.

    In a divorce action “at the request of either party, personally or through that party’s attorney, unless the other party who has entered an appearance objects personally or through that other party’s attorney, the court shall exclude the public from the court proceedings.” 19-A M.R.S.A. § 901(3). “If the court orders that the public is to be excluded, only the parties, their attorneys, court officers and witnesses may be present.” Id.

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  • Maryland

    Under the Maryland Rules, judicial records concerning adoption, guardianship, and “child in need of assistance” (i.e., abuse) cases are presumptively closed to the public. Md. Rule 16-907(a)(1)–(2); see also, e.g., Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-827(a)(1) (court records pertaining to cases concerning “children in need of assistance” “shall be confidential and their contents may not be divulged, by subpoena or otherwise, except by order of the court on good cause shown”).

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  • Massachusetts

    Records from abuse or harassment prevention proceedings (under General Laws c. 209A or c. 258E) involving minors are presumptively withheld from the public, except by order of the court. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209A, § 8; 258E, § 10. The Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure govern motions to release such materials.


    Although Massachusetts law bars the general public from trials involving sex offenses with minors (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, § 16A), the Supreme Court held this mandatory closure to be unconstitutional. Globe Newspaper Co. v. Super. Ct., 457 U.S. 596, 610-11 & n.27 (1982). Instead, courts must make closure determinations on a case-by-case basis. Id. at 608; Commonwealth v. Martin, 629 N.E.2d 297, 302 (Mass. 1994).


    When considering closure, Massachusetts courts apply the Supreme Court’s Waller factors: “[1] the party seeking to close the hearing must advance an overriding interest that is likely to be prejudiced, [2] the closure must be no broader than necessary to protect that interest, [3] the trial court must consider reasonable alternatives to closing the proceeding, and [4] it must make findings adequate to support the closure.” Martin, 629 N.E.2d at 302 (quoting Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 48 (1984)). Within this framework, courts have considered, as a relevant factor, the prevention of psychological harm and trauma to the minor.  Id. at 302. In addition, “the judge shall consider the age, maturity, and desires of the complainant, the nature of the alleged crime, and the interests of the complainant’s parents and relatives.” Id. (quoting Globe Newspaper Co., 457 U.S. at 608).

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  • Minnesota

    Under Minnesota statutes, child adoption hearings are closed to the public and all associated records are inaccessible except as provided in the Minnesota Rules of Adoption Procedure. Minn. Stat. § 260C.163, subd. 1(d).

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  • Mississippi

    Mississippi cases involving domestic relations, specifically the custody of children, are not subject to the same standards of closure set out in Gannett River States Publishing Co. v. Hand, 571 So. 2d 941, 945 (Miss. 1990). See In re Memphis Publ’g Co., 823 So. 2d 1150, 1151 (Miss. 2001).

    Miss. Code Ann. § 93-5-21 (1994) provides wide discretion for a chancery court to close trials in divorce and custody cases, stating: “The court may, in its discretion, exclude all persons from the court room during the trial except the officers of the court, attorneys engaged in the case, parties to the suit and the witness being examined.” The chancellor’s discretionary authority is particularly important in cases that involve confidential or sensitive testimony or other evidence that may affect the emotional well-being of the children involved. In re Memphis Publ’g Co.823 at 1151. However, matters concerning the estate of the child are financial matters and lack such protection. Id. “We find that these matters, as to both hearings and the case file, should be open to the public.” Id.

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  • Missouri

    Missouri law prohibits the general public from juvenile court hearings.  Mo. Rev. Stat. § 211.171.5 (1986).  It further provides that certain juvenile records be destroyed or sealed when the child reaches the age of seventeen if “the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child.”  Id. § 211.321.4.

    In State ex rel. St. Louis Post-Dispatch LLC v. Garvey, the court held that the statutory rule excluding the public from juvenile proceedings did not apply to a juvenile defendant charged with conduct that would constitute a class A felony if the defendant were tried as an adult.  State ex rel. St. Louis Post-Dispatch LLC v. Garvey, 179 S.W.3d 899 (Mo. 2005).

    Juvenile courts in Missouri also have jurisdiction over proceedings involving children in need of care or support, adoption proceedings, and guardianship proceedings, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 211.031.1 (1986), and records of those proceedings are regarded as confidential.  Webster Groves Sch. Dist. v. Pulitzer Publ’g Co., 898 F.2d 1371, 1375 (1990).  Records of those actions “also are regarded as confidential.”  Id.

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  • Montana

    Youth in need of care or supervision proceedings are closed, as are dependent neglect proceedings.

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  • Nebraska

    In juvenile proceedings alleging that the juvenile is mentally ill and dangerous to himself or others (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(c) (Reissue 2016)), all court records relating to the action are confidential and not available to the public.

    Court files in adoption cases are not publicly available. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-113 (Reissue 2016).

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  • Nevada

    Family court matters involving child custody necessarily involve minors.  Pursuant to NRS § 125C.004, a court “may exclude the public from any hearing” concerning custody to a person other than a parent.

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  • New Hampshire

    Abuse and neglect proceedings are confidential by statute, see RSA 169-C:25, as are proceedings for children in need of service. See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 169-D:24 and 25.

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  • New Mexico

    In New Mexico, all hearings in adoption proceedings are confidential and are held in closed court without admittance of any person other than parties to the case and their counsel. NMSA 1978, § 32A-5-8. In Normand By & Through Normand v. Ray, 1990-NMSC-006, ¶ 14, 109 N.M. 403, 407, 785 P.2d 743, 747, the court found that the New Mexico statute providing that courts shall hold private hearing in chambers when testimony is taken from a minor in a custody case is not mandatory but evinces a legislative directive that children are not to be subject to adversarial proceedings in open court.

    All hearings regarding a family in need of court-ordered services shall be closed to the general public, save for those the court finds to have a “proper interest in the case” or those “accredited representatives of the news media,” both of whom must “refrain from divulging any information that would identify the child or family involved in the proceedings.” NMSA 1978, § 32A-3B-13. All records developed thereby “shall be confidential and closed to the public.” NMSA 1978, § 32A-3B-22. Likewise, “[a]ll records or information concerning a party to a neglect or abuse proceeding” are confidential and closed to the public. NMSA 1978 § 32A-4-33.

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  • New York

    In Capital Newspapers v. Moynihan, 519 N.E.2d 825 (N.Y. 1988), New York’s highest court held that sentencing proceedings in felony cases in which the defendant has been granted youthful offender status are presumptively open to the press and public.

    In In re Adoption of Doe, the Surrogate’s Court considered whether the courtroom should be closed and the record sealed in a proceeding involving argument on the legal effect of apparently conflicting adoption certificates from Cambodia and the United States. 16 Misc.3d 714, 715–16 (N.Y. Sur. 2007). Applying the First Amendment right of access, the court ruled that the courtroom would not be closed and allowed only portions of the transcript discussing the details of the specific adoption in question to be sealed. Id. at 731.

    Where proceedings are closed due to the involvement of minors, courts may substitute access to redacted transcripts.  For example, in Merola ex rel. People v. Bell, 393 N.E.2d 1038 (N.Y. 1979), the court upheld the closure of a suppression hearing in the prosecution of a thirteen-year-old defendant charged with murder, but granted access to redacted transcripts of the hearing.

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  • North Carolina

    Adoptions: See N.C.G.S. 48-2-203 ("A judicial hearing in any proceeding pursuant to this Chapter [adoption of a minor child] shall be held in closed court.")

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  • North Dakota

    Juvenile proceedings are closed under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-51.  However, general information not identifying any juvenile, witness, or victim can be requested and released under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-51(7).

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  • Ohio

    The Ohio Juvenile Rules of Procedure authorize closure of probable cause hearings, but do not mandate closure.  State ex rel. Roberts v. Pierce, 13 Media L. Rep. 1142 (Ohio Ct. App. 1986).

    In State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Louden, 741 N.E.2d 517 (Ohio 2001), the Ohio Supreme Court prohibited a judge from closing juvenile proceedings to the media without a hearing.  Public access to juvenile proceedings can be restricted only if, after hearing evidence and argument, the court finds: “(1) there exists a reasonable and substantial basis for believing that public access could harm the child or endanger the fairness of the adjudication, (2) the potential for harm outweighs the benefits of public access, and (3) there are no reasonable alternatives to closure.”  State ex rel. Plain Dealer Publ’g Co. v. Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, 734 N.E.2d 1214, 1220 (Ohio 2000).  Procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment requires the court to enter motions for closure on a publicly available docket.  State ex rel. Plain Dealer Publ’g Co. v. Floyd, 855 N.E.2d 35 (Ohio 2006).

    Custody hearings in Ohio are presumed open and may only be closed if a hearing determines that there is a reasonable and substantial basis to believe the child or fairness of the proceedings would be harmed if open, and that harm outweighs the public’s interest in access.  Ohio ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Lias, 628 N.E.2d 1368 (Ohio 1994).

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  • Pennsylvania

    Divorce hearings are presumptively open, but “are the type of proceedings which courts may close to protect the rights of the parties.” Katz v. Katz, 514 A.2d 1374, 1380 (Pa. Super. 1986); see also R.W. v. Hampe, 626 A.2d 1218, 1222 (Pa. Super. 1993) (“Divorce cases present one exception to the general rule of openness. The subject matter of divorce litigation serves, in many cases, ‘only to embarrass and humiliate’ the litigants.” (citation omitted)).

    In Storms v. O’Malley, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of a physician’s motion to seal the record in a medical malpractice case involving a minor. 779 A.2d 548, 570 (Pa. Super. 2001). The Superior Court held that “the minor’s interest in secrecy was not significant in light of the fact that she and her family no longer reside[d] in the area.” Id. at 569.

    Similarly, in A.A. v. Glicken, 237 A.3d 1165, 1170-71 (Pa. Super. 2020), the Superior Court held that defendants in a medical malpractice case involving a minor patient could not seal the petition to approve the settlement agreement with the minor.

    There is not a public right of access to proceedings involving a child charged with a summary offense.  See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6336(d) & (g); § 6303(c).

    The Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts; No. 477 Judicial Administration requires that certain information in judicial filings concerning minors be kept confidential. Such information includes a minor’s name, date of birth, and educational records. See 204 Pa. Code § 213.81.

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  • Rhode Island

    In Providence Journal Co. v. Rodgers, 711 A.2d 1131 (R.I. 1988) the Rhode Island Supreme Court adopted a “dual filing” docket system for criminal cases involving sex crimes against minors in which victims’ names and identifying facts are redacted from public docket in order to protect child victims from further trauma. During the prosecution and disposition of case in which a child is identified as the victim of a child molestation sexual assault, a “public file” and a “confidential court file” shall be maintained.  Id. at 1138.  Two versions of each document are placed on file: one from which all victim-identifying information has been redacted or made fictitious, to be placed in the public file; and a second version of the same document, unredacted, to be placed in the confidential court file.  Id.  The Court held that the procedure was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest in protecting child victims of sexual assault.  Id.

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  • South Carolina

    In Ex parte Island Packet, 417 S.E.2d 575 (S.C. 1992), the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the press had a First Amendment right of access to the transcripts of a juvenile transfer hearing and to the transfer proceedings themselves. The burden of proof is on the party seeking closure. Here, the court reversed the closure order, applying the Press-Enterprise II standard.

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  • South Dakota

    “[R]ecords and information pertaining to an adoption” are closed under S.D. Codified Laws § 25-6-15.1, so hearings, presumably, are considered closed, too.

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  • Tennessee

    Neglect proceedings are not open to the public.  Tenn. R. Juv. P. 114(a).

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  • Texas

    Contested proceedings that affect the parent-child relationship are ordinarily treated the same as other civil proceedings.  See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 105.003(a).  However, courts may limit attendance at hearings to only interested individuals upon an agreement of all parties to the suit.  See id. § 105.003(b).  Further, parties may waive the creation of a record for the case, with the court’s consent.  See id. § 105.003(c).  Both parties must be present, or have counsel present, at the hearing to waive the record’s creation.  See, e.g., Wray v. Papp, 434 S.W.3d 297, 299 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2014, no pet.). In addition, documents filed in cases arising under the Family Code are excluded from the statutory definition of "court records" and therefore the presumption of access under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 76a(2) does not apply to them. Nevertheless, Rule 76a broadly provides that "[n]o court order order or opinion issued in the adjudication of a case may be sealed," suggesting that court orders and opinions even in cases arising under the Family Code may not be sealed. Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a(1).

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  • Utah

    “[T]he judiciary has adopted rules similar to GRAMA regarding court records, exhibits, and files,” of which “portions . . . specifically address juvenile court records and restrict access to juvenile court ‘social’ and ‘legal’ records.”  Brehm v. Dep’t of Workforce Servs., 2014 UT App 281, ¶ 24, 339 P.3d 945; see Utah Code Jud. Admin. 4-202.02(6)-(7), 4-202.03(5)-(6).

    In general, juvenile court records are open to inspection by parents or guardians, other parties in the case, the attorneys, agencies to which custody of the child has been transferred, and the Division of Criminal Investigations and Technical Services.  Utah Code § 78A-6-209(2).  With the judge’s consent, the records may be inspected by the minor, by persons having a legitimate interest in the proceedings, and by persons conducting pertinent research studies.  Id.§ 78A-6-209(3).  If a juvenile fourteen years of age or older is charged “with an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult, the juvenile court shall make available to any person upon request the petition, any adjudication or disposition orders, and the delinquency history summary of the minor,” unless the records are closed by the juvenile court upon findings on the record for good cause.  § 78A-6-209(4).  “Probation officers’ records and reports of social and clinical studies are not open to inspection, except by consent of the juvenile court, given under the rules adopted by the board.”  § 78A-6-209(5).

    “After a detention hearing for a violent felony,” or certain weapon offenses, “the juvenile court shall order a juvenile probation officer to notify a school official, or a transferee school official, and the appropriate local law enforcement agency of the juvenile court’s decision, , including any disposition, order, or no contact order.”  § 80-6-103(4).

    The Utah Supreme Court has reversed a judgment of conviction, for violation of the defendant’s constitutional right to a public trial, where the trial court had closed the courtroom during the minor rape victim’s testimony “on the mere verbal assertion of the prosecutor that ‘[the witness] is extremely uptight, very nervous, very frightened . . . [a]nd I am afraid that she is going to be intimidated by them all [her family and the defendant’s family] probably,’” without “examin[ing] the witness to attempt to determine her capacity to testify in public, nor . . . mak[ing] any findings regarding the accuracy of the prosecutor’s assertions.” State v. Crowley, 766 P.2d 1069, 1071 (Utah 1988) (first and third alterations in original); see also Kearns-Tribune Corp. v. Lewis, 685 P.2d 515, 517, 524 (Utah 1984) (rejecting passing reference by prosecutor “to an interest ‘in the privacy and the well being’” of a minor sex-abuse victim in holding unconstitutional the trial court’s order closing preliminary hearing during her testimony without making any written findings supported by evidence); United States v. Galloway, 937 F.2d 542, 546 (10th Cir. 1991) (“The [United States] Supreme Court has made clear that a simple blanket rule mandating closure in all sex offense cases involving young victims violates the Constitution.” (citing Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596, 607-08 (1982)).

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  • Vermont

    On July 1, 2018, a statute took effect in Vermont whereby anyone 21 or younger charged with a crime in Vermont can, upon petition, be eligible for youthful offender status. 33 V.S.A. § 5281. Before July 1, 2018, those who had a criminal case and sought youthful offender status had to plead guilty and the case would remain public until a judge determined whether the defendant was appropriate for youthful offender status. 33 V.S.A. § 5281 [repealed effective July 1, 2018].

    As of July 2018, the moment a defense attorney files a motion seeking youthful offender status, the records are transferred to the family court and the case becomes confidential until the family court judge makes a determination as to the petition. 33 V.S.A. §§ 5281, 5110. Section 5110 governs these proceedings and states that “[t]here shall be no publicity given by any person to any proceedings under the authority of the juvenile judicial proceedings chapters except with the consent of the child, the child’s guardian ad litem, and the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian.”  If the family court accepts the case for youthful offender treatment, the case proceeds to a confidential merits hearing or admission. 33 V.S.A. § 5281(d).  If the family court rejects the case for youthful offender treatment, the case is transferred back to the criminal division.  33 V.S.A. § 5281(c).

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  • Virginia

    In any criminal proceeding relating to a violation of the laws pertaining to kidnapping (§ 18.2-47 et seq.), criminal sexual assault (§ 18.2-61 et seq.) or family offenses pursuant to Article 4 (§ 18.2-362 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 18.2 of the Virginia Code, or involving an alleged murder, under certain conditions, juvenile victims and juvenile witnesses may testify from a room outside the courtroom.  However, the child’s testimony shall be transmitted by closed-circuit television into the courtroom for the defendant, jury, judge and the public to view. See Va. Code § 18.2-67.9.

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  • Washington

    Juvenile justice proceedings appear to be an exception to the state constitutional right of access. State v. S.J.C., 183 Wn.2d 408, 352 P.3d 749 (2015) (sealing of juvenile court records not subject to article I, §10; courts should apply statutory test, not Ishikawa factors, in deciding whether to seal); In re Lewis, 51 Wn.2d 193, 198 (1957).

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  • West Virginia

    In a child abuse and neglect case, a court must hold a hearing and determine if the child is abused or neglected to determine whether to further continue the case.  Syl. pt. 2, In re Emily G., 224 W. Va. 390, 686 S.E.2d 41 (2009).  In W. Va. Dep't of Health & Human Res. v. Clark, 209 W. Va. 102, 106, 543 S.E.2d 659, 663 (2000), the West Virginia Supreme Court held that, “absent probable cause to believe that . . . children were . . . abused and neglected, the [West Virginia Department of Health & Humans Resources] does not have a right to review . . . children's medical and school records. Nonetheless . . . the DHHR does have the right to interview the children.”

    Circuit courts have exclusive jurisdiction over child abuse and neglect cases, and the family court must defer to the circuit court ruling. In re J.L., 234 W. Va. 116, 121, 763 S.E.2d 654, 659 (2014). Juvenile hearings are also closed to the public. W. Va. R. Juv. P. 10(a),

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  • Wisconsin

    See State v. Roders, 125 Wis. 2d 572, 373 N.W.2d 85 (Wis. App. 1985) (unpublished) (ruling that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the defendant’s request to exclude the parent of a minor victim from the courtroom during a criminal trial); see also State v. G.B., 204 Wis. 2d 108, 552 N.W.2d 897 (Ct. App. 1996) (unpublished).

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  • Wyoming

    Adoption, administrative proceedings regarding child neglect, and paternity cases are confidential by law in Wyoming. Financial affidavits filed in child support cases are also confidential.

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