California Juvenile Record Sealing

California law, says Darren Chaker, “‘has been consistently interpreted to vest the juvenile court with exclusive authority to determine when a release of juvenile court records to a third party is appropriate.”’ In re R.G., 79 Cal.App.4th 1408, 1414, 94 Cal.Rptr.2d 818 (2000)(emphasis added). The Juvenile Court is in the best position to determine whether disclosure is in the best interests of the minor. See Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 827 (a); T.N.G. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal. 3d 767, 781 (1971). Long-established, black letter California precedent required notice and hearing before plaintiff s Juvenile Court records were released to defendants. California Rule of Court 1433(b). “The ‘petitioner seeking access to juvenile court records must first show good cause.’ [Citation.] In addition, ‘[t]he minor and other interested parties must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard.”’ In re R. G., 79 Cal.App.4th at 1416. An example of the notice plaintiff should have gotten is found at AER 223 et seq.

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The first obligation of a petitioner seeking Juvenile Court records is adequately to identify the information sought. In Cimarusti v. Superior Court (Department of the Youth Authority), the Court of Appeal held that:
Petitioners first need to make clear and specific the type of information they seek from the records to assist the designated court to perform its in camera review of the records.Cimarusti, 79 Cal.App.4th 799, 806, 94 Cal.Rptr.2d 336 (2000); see also Foster v Superior Court, 107 Cal. App. 3d 218, 165 Cal. Rptr. 701 (1980) (request properly denied as overly broad). In addition to specifically identifying the type of information sought, the petitioner seeking disclosure of juvenile records must show the “records in question will disclose information or evidence of substantial relevance to the pending litigation ….” California Rule of Court 1423 (emphasis added). This Rule of Court “sets forth the proper balancing test for the juvenile court to undertake.” In re R. G., supra, 79 Cal.App.4th at 1414-15. Further, “Any balancing must be guided by the principle that [f]irst, and foremost, the court’s discretion must be directed at determining what is in the best interests of the minors, for that obviously is its primary concern at all times in the juvenile proceeding.”’ Id. at 1417.

If the Juvenile Court decides to release records, it “should made a record of its findings adequate for review of its ruling.” In re Keisha T., supra, 38 Cal.App.4th at 241. Of course, the minor then has the right to appeal. Id. at 226 (“the minors appeal from the court order”).