A recent decision by Children’s Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash to open Los Angeles County’s juvenile courtrooms to the media is causing a stir among children’s rights advocates. Nash’s decision to open hearings is limited to cases in which having the media present does not endanger the welfare of a child and is based on the argument that transparency will bring a level of accountability to a process that can be mystifying for parents and frightening for children. But the process by which that precedent is determined has bogged down legal proceedings in some courtrooms as lawyers and judicial officials determine where that line is drawn. Allowing the media access to these kinds of proceedings has provided a rarely-seen glimpse into the secretive world of children’s courtrooms that feature stuffed animals, coloring books and children caught in the middle of difficult and unfortunate circumstances. The Children’s Law Center has filed a legal action in response to Nash’s ruling based on the right of children to have confidential proceedings. “The court has put the needs and interests of the public and the media ahead of the victims of child abuse and neglect,” said Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center at a news conference on Tuesday.
How does transparency make the difficult circumstances of children’s court more equitable? What is the best course of action for the children’s well being?
Martha Matthews, director of children’s rights, Public Counsel, a non-profit law firm that works with children and families in the foster care system
David Estep, director, Children’s Law Center, a private non-profit organization that provides appointed counsel for abused and neglected children in Los Angeles and Sacramento County
Jim Ewert, general counsel at the California Newspaper Publishers Association
Marcelina Valenzuela, 23-year-old former foster youth from Los Angeles, California