State-by-state guide

May 1, 2012


The following is a state-by-state guide to each jurisdiction’s law regarding access to juvenile courts. Some of the information was compiled by the authors of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ Open Courts Compendium.

This guide outlines:   The right of access to juvenile delinquency proceedings, including transfer hearings, or the proceedings during which the juvenile court determines whether the minor should be prosecuted as an adult in criminal court. Unless specifically noted otherwise, the law of most states does not differentiate between access to transfer hearings and other delinquency hearings and thus the standard governing the media’s and public’s access right to delinquency proceedings in general will likewise apply to transfer hearings in most jurisdictions;  The right of access to juvenile delinquency records, including juveniles’ law enforcement records in those states where the law specifically addresses them;  The right of access to dependency proceedings;  The right of access to dependency records;  Restrictions of media coverage of minors who appear in adult court, either civil or criminal, as either victims or witnesses, including exclusion from the courtroom during their testimony and restrictions on identifying or photographing them. Unless specifically noted otherwise, a state’s court rules governing media coverage of judicial proceedings do not impose any additional restrictions on covering minors beyond those that apply generally to all court proceedings. Some states’ discussions lack any mention of rules for recording or photographing minors in adult court most likely because cameras and electronic recording devices are not allowed in those states’ trial courts; and  The few states that allow cameras and recording devices in juvenile courts and the procedures the media must follow to record or photograph there. 

References to case law have been included where courts have provided further guidance on the relevant statute. Note that the law governing the right of public access to other proceedings involving minors, including divorce, child custody and visitation, paternity and adoption proceedings, is not covered in this guide. Finally, because the guide is intended for journalists, it does not expound on situations where various individuals or agencies designated by statute have a right of access to proceedings or records that does not extend to members of the news media.

This guide is meant as a general introduction for journalists to the state of the law concerning the right of public access to juvenile courts. It does not replace the legal advice from an attorney in one’s own state when confronted with a specific legal problem. Journalists who have additional questions or who need to find a lawyer with experience litigating these types of claims can contact the Reporters Committee at (800) 336-4243.