Appeals court denies effort to keep press out of children's courts
This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
A California appeals court has denied two petitions seeking to overturn a new rule allowing reporters to enter Los Angeles County juvenile courtrooms where child abuse, foster care and family reunification decisions are made.
A three-member panel of the California Courts of Appeal denied the petitions in a two-sentence decision Wednesday, finding that two court-appointed law firms representing parents and children lacked standing to challenge the rule about press access.
"While the decision is a bummer for the lawyers, it leaves open the hope that the court might agree to hear the case if they find a client who has actually been harmed who has standing," said Shaun P. Martin, a law professor at the University of San Diego.
Kenneth Krekorian, executive director of the law firm representing parents involved in the child protection system, said the new rule "is so far off [state law] that we thought that we had a good shot going in without any individual case at all. Obviously the Court of Appeal didn’t agree."
Leslie Heimov, executive director of the law firm representing children, said that she was disappointed by the ruling and that her team would consider legal options. "In the interim, we will continue to represent and protect our clients' interests consistent with their individual circumstances and unique needs.”
Judge Michael Nash earlier this month ordered juvenile courtrooms to be open to the press, except in cases when a judge finds that it would be harmful to the child involved. Nash, whose order did not affect delinquency courts, argues that openness will bring accountability to the process and that his order implements a state law allowing people with a "legitimate interest" to attend court proceedings.
Social workers at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, elected officials and others have argued that the order overreaches and intrudes on the privacy of children who have already suffered mistreatment.
[For the record, 3:32 p.m. Feb. 17: An earlier version of this post referred in the headline and the text to media access to children's courts. The judge's order specified access by the press.]
-- Garrett Therolf
Photo: Judge Michael Nash in a 2005 file photo. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times