April 27, 2013 at 7:03 AM
Juvenile-court records could be sealed
Open records put youth at a disadvantage
As prime sponsor of House Bill 1651, I 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.
Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, Olympia
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