Panel calls for opening more juvenile proceedings
ARIZONA — An Arizona committee on juvenile justice, in late May, recommended that juvenile court proceedings be more open to the press and public and would create a presumption of openness in cases involving allegations of serious felony conduct.
The Committee on Juvenile Courts was established by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman to study and make recommendations about juvenile justice issues. The committee proposed amendments to the rules of juvenile court procedure to clarify confusion regarding the confidentiality of juvenile records and proceedings. Currently, a juvenile court file is a public document, although adoption and dependency proceedings are not.
Juvenile Court Judge William O’Neil said that many people do not realize the public nature of juvenile court documents and assume they are confidential. “The rules allow a judge to close a proceeding but it is not mandatory,” O’Neil said.
The new rules would clearly state that the legal file of a juvenile, including all pleadings, motions, minute entries or summaries of hearings, orders or official communications in cases of serious or dangerous felonies would be open to the public from the filing of charges. All transfer hearings would be open unless the court finds a need to protect the best interest of the juvenile, a victim, a witness or the state.
The proposed amendments will be considered by the state Supreme Court in the fall term. (Petition to Amend the Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court)