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Protecting Juveniles in Court Proceedings

July 09, 2002

Re "Pleading for Less Secrecy in Juvenile Courts," July 5:

The balance between the public's right to know and the interest in privacy is often delicate. In this instance, the privacy interest is of particularly vital importance--no less than the protection of already abused or neglected children.

Having represented numerous children in juvenile dependency cases at the appellate level (under appointment by the Court of Appeal), I can see both sides of the issue.

Although appellate oversight seems to be working well, the system might benefit by more public oversight. The proposed pilot program [to measure the effect of opening juvenile dependency hearings] could at least provide insight into whether open courts would indeed improve the system.

Whatever approach is pursued, however, it should be infused with essential safeguards. Children should not suffer at the hands of the media or any others given access to the courts. The decision makers should keep the focus on how their decisions affect the children. It is vital that they never lose sight of the paramount goal of protecting the children.

Jacquelyn E. Gentry

Attorney, Huntington Beach

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