This op-ed was originally published in the Nov. 28 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
As a former public defender and current clinical director of the delinquency clinic at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, I've seen far too many children charged with crimes. It is especially heartbreaking when I see young people whose poor behavior can be traced back, in part, to a dependency system that failed to meet their needs.
I want nothing more than to strengthen the dependency system and improve outcomes for young people who deserve our protection and support. Unfortunately, a proposed blanket order from Los Angeles Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash to presumptively open juvenile dependency court proceedings - hearings for foster children and youth - to the public and the media would do more harm than good.
That's the conclusion legislators reached earlier this year, when they listened to youth and attorneys for both children and families and squarely rejected a bill to presumptively open dependency courts. Yet Judge Nash is moving forward with an order that circumvents the legislative process, contradicts current law, and disregards the youths' desire for privacy.
Youth have put forward an alternative that would both protect them and accomplish the goal of opening the system to greater analysis: allow the youth or his attorney to "opt out" of the automatic opening of a public hearing. Judge Nash should listen to the youth and adopt this alternative, or scrap his damaging blanket order.
As currently written, the order will not improve the dependency system that serves foster youth. Instead, the order risks re-traumatizing youth who have already been through the worst by making public the most intimate details of their lives, at the most difficult times in their lives.