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Appellate Panel Keeps Media Access to Children's Court Proceedings

By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 16, 2012 3:16 PM

Earlier this month, Los Angeles County Children's Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash opened the super-secret juvenile courtrooms to the press, except in cases in which an open hearing would be harmful to the child involved, reports the Los Angeles Times. Judge Nash believes the move will bring accountability to court proceedings, and comply with a state law giving people with a "legitimate interest" access to court proceedings.

It's an idea that Judge Nash has been touting for months, arguing that media access to these proceedings will improve "transparency for a branch of the legal system that handles child abuse, child neglect and foster care placements." The order, which applies only to dependency proceedings and not delinquency cases, was not universally well-received.

The Children's Law Center contested Judge Nash's order, claiming that his decision conflicted with state law and exceeded his authority. The group said that Judge Nash's order violated the rights of children to confidential proceedings, reports the Los Angeles Times.

This week, a California appellate court rejected the Children's Law Center's challenge.

A three-judge panel of the Second Appellate District denied petitions contesting the order in a two-sentence decision Wednesday, because "court-appointed law firms representing parents and children lacked standing to challenge the media rule," reports the Los Angeles Times.

Shaun P. Martin, a law professor at the University of San Diego, told the Times that the limited scope of the appellate court's ruling leaves the possibility that the groups could renew their challenge if they find a "client who has actually been harmed who has standing."

Leslie Heimov, a spokesman for the Children's Law Center, said the ruling is disappointing and her team will consider other legal options, reports The Associated Press.

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