Sunday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Juvenile Court Records Could be Sealed, The Seattle Times

As prime sponsor of House Bill 1651, I [Rep. Ruth Kagi D-Seattle] was disappointed to see The Seattle Times editorial assert that HB 1651 is unconstitutional [“Editorial: Don’t seal all juvenile-court records,” Opinion, April 22].

Until 1977, all juvenile records were closed to the public without any constitutional issue. Currently, records for certain types of cases are already kept confidential without being deemed in violation of the constitution.

Under HB 1651, juvenile-court proceedings would remain open to the public, satisfying the constitutional requirement that justice be “administered openly.” Furthermore, records would remain available to the courts and law enforcement so that public safety can be protected. Juvenile records would still be available for research purposes to ensure government accountability. They just would not be sold to credit bureaus, as juvenile arrest and conviction records currently are, and would not be put on the web.

Washington is one of only eight states where juvenile records are open to the public and published online. As a result, our state’s youth are at a disadvantage when applying for jobs, schools and housing. It’s time we allow our juvenile-justice system to achieve its goal: rehabilitating former juvenile offenders so they may contribute to their communities as productive citizens.

[Juvenile Court] Judge: Pay for My Private Lawyer,

Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter has two lawsuits pending against her filed by The Enquirer and one by a Cincinnati television station over access to juvenile court cases. Because the judge believes Hamilton County’s prosecutors, who normally represent elected officials in civil lawsuits, are biased against her, she wants the public to pay a private attorney to defend her . . .

At issue is the media coverage in the case of six teens who beat Pat Mahaney of North College Hill in a case that drew national attention after the teens told police they beat Mahaney in the Aug. 11 incident because they were “bored.”

The Enquirer printed the names of the juveniles several times before Hunter issued an order banning the printing of the teens’ names. The Enquirer said it was never served notice of the order and also contends a judge can’t order it to not print public information. The teens’ names were in the North College Hill police report about the incident . . .

Carolyn Washburn, editor and vice president of The Enquirer, said Friday. “The community needs to have confidence that those young people are punished enough – not too much, but not too little . . . We have learned from too many examples that things don’t always work the way they should when no one is watching.”

The article lists all 6 juveniles names, apparently not fearing a lawsuit, even though the author clearly had notice of the court order.

Keep up Effort to Set Pot DUI Limit in Colorado, The Denver Post

For the fourth time in recent history, state lawmakers have killed an effort to establish a driving-while- stoned limit.

It is irresponsible. And with the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the committee vote Monday by three Democrats and one Republican to defeat the well-vetted bill is an affront to public safety.

Thankfully, there is a movement afoot to revive the measure by appending it to one of several bills moving through the legislature that will set the regulatory framework for recreational marijuana.

House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, tells us there are at least three bills that could accommodate the measure . . .

The driving-while-stoned measure would have limited drivers to 5 nanograms of THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — per milliliter of blood . . . it included a compromise, which would have allowed for “permissible inference” that a 5 nanogram reading means the defendant is under the influence. However, defendants could argue in court they were not impaired at this level . . .

The Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, which also had worked on previous versions of the bill, looked at the issue again over the summer . . .

Readers know we have long supported legalization of marijuana at the federal level and trust adults to make decisions about whether pot use is right for them.

However, that personal choice cannot come at the expense of public safety. It is the obligation of our state lawmakers to set boundaries on just how high drivers can be when they get behind the wheel. The rights of those who want to indulge in marijuana are not without limit.

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