Legislature(2011 - 2012)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/11/2012 01:30 PM JUDICIARY
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HB 343-DISCLOSURE OF CHILDREN'S RECORDS 1:37:58 PM CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of HB 343, "An Act relating to disclosure of records of the Department of Health and Social Services pertaining to children in certain circumstances; and providing for an effective date." SENATOR PASKVAN joined the committee. 1:38:28 PM REPRESENTATIVE CATHY MUNOZ, sponsor of HB 343, said the bill does three primary things. First, it assures that the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the Office of Children's Services (OCS) can exchange information to provide necessary services to children without undue delay. Second, it allows individuals with a legitimate interest - such as former clients who once were children in state custody, their parents or guardians - to receive information about delinquency history and health records from DJJ. Third, it clarifies cumbersome language in current law regarding public disclosure of juvenile information. The legislation strives to preserve the legislative intent of maintaining public safety by disclosing appropriate information on serious offenders while protecting the confidentiality of offenders who pose less risk to society. 1:41:15 PM TONY NEWMAN, Program Officer, Division of Juvenile Justice, Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), spoke to the benefits of improving OCS and DJJ's ability to collaborate. The amendment to AS 47.12.310(f) (Section 3) will enable DJJ to be more responsive to requests, particularly from individuals with a need for background information on their juvenile history. Provisions in Section 4 will improve the ability of staff and the public to understand when information about a juvenile offense is subject to public disclosure and when it is not. He stated that the proposed bill will not change any laws regarding victim notification, and parents and agencies with well-established rights to juvenile information will continue to receive the necessary information to effectively carry out their duties. The laws surrounding child abuse and neglect are not affected by the proposed bill. 1:43:45 PM SENATOR PASKVAN asked for specifics on how the guardian ad litem or OCS employee can get a request for nondisclosure before the court. MR. NEWMAN said the intention is not for the OCS employee to object. The guardian ad litem (GAL) or child's attorney would make the objection and the court would rule on whether the release of information was in the best interest of the child. He continued to say that DJJ intends to develop policy and regulation to guide staff in understanding the type of information that is appropriate to exchange between the divisions. 1:46:49 PM SENATOR PASKVAN said he was trying to understand the physical mechanism to get to the court house in those limited circumstances when it was not in the best interest to disclose the information. MR. NEWMAN said DDJ and OCS employees already share information in all but a few pockets of the state, and this statute clarifies that presumption. He deferred further explanation to Ms. Kraly. SENATOR PASKVAN mentioned the $75 civil filing fee and asked what physical process is followed to get before a judge to object to the disclosure of information. 1:49:43 PM STACIE KRALY, Assistant Attorney General, Human Services Section, Civil Division, Department of Law (DOL), explained that the majority of these situations are existing court cases so there would be a pending child in need of aid (CINA) action or a pending juvenile justice matter. In that context, the guardian ad litem, public defender, child, parent or guardian could file a motion in those existing cases. In the rare instance when neither a CINA action nor juvenile justice matter is pending, an application for an original action would have to be filed with the court to protect or prohibit further disclosure. The individuals representing the minor would bring that motion. MS. KRALY acknowledged that the issue of the filing fee wasn't discussed since the majority of cases arise in an existing civil context. 1:51:08 PM CHAIR FRENCH asked for a discussion of the tension between the desire to protect a minor from their youthful indiscretions and the need for the public to be aware of those acts in certain circumstances. MR. NEWMAN said he believes the intention of the 1997 law regarding public disclosure was to reconcile that tension, because some information about juvenile offenses clearly should be available to the public. CHAIR FRENCH asked if the general rule is that most juvenile records will stay confidential. MR. NEWMAN said yes; the statute is very specific regarding the conditions under which agency records may be released. HB 343 addresses the release of information that will be rehabilitative and in the child's interest. 1:53:22 PM CHAIR FRENCH asked if the language on page 5, line 29 through the end of the subsection says that if information is stored in electronic form it may be disclosed in that same medium. MR. NEWMAN said yes. CHAIR FRENCH asked how the seven enumerated offenses listed on page 5, lines 11-18, fit in the scheme of the bill. MR. NEWMAN explained that current law and the bill provide that when a minor is charged with having committed one of those more serious offenses, the information about the offense may be disclosed upon adjudication if the juvenile is age 13 or older. Lessor offenses are not eligible for public disclosure. CHAIR FRENCH asked if in some situations juvenile jurisdiction can be maintained to age 21. MR. NEWMAN relayed that juvenile jurisdiction for a new offense applies to age 18. A juvenile already under agency jurisdiction can be maintained under probation supervision or in state custody until his or her 19th birthday, and if both the juvenile and court agree, jurisdiction can extend to the 20th birthday. CHAIR FRENCH asked if this law could pertain to an individual who is age 19. MR. NEWMAN responded that a 19-year-old who commits a new offense and is already under juvenile jurisdiction will generally be remanded to the adult system. CHAIR FRENCH asked if the bill provides that in the future those records can be disclosed. MR. NEWMAN said current law and this bill provide that public disclosure will be maintained for five years after the adjudication. The reasoning was that the public safety concern would generally have passed by then. 1:58:57 PM SENATOR COGHILL asked if the requests for information might come from schools or foster homes. MR. NEWMAN replied there are different statutes that allow foster parents and victims to receive information about a juvenile's history. The bill is addressing information that may be disclosed to the public. CHAIR FRENCH asked if the bill had any opposition. MR. NEWMAN said no. 2:00:00 PM CHAIR FRENCH closed public testimony, and asked Mr. Steiner if the Public Defender Agency had concerns about the current version of HB 343. QUINLAN STEINER, Public Defender, Public Defender Agency, Department of Administration (DOA), discussed working with Mr. Newman throughout the process and the work that was done on sections 1 and 4 to improve the bill. Addressing the circumstances of nondisclosure was critical, he said. CHAIR FRENCH asked if a juvenile could oppose the release of these records. MR. STEINER said yes, but as a practical matter it will generally come from the guardian ad litem in a CINA case. Theoretically at that point there is no juvenile justice case CHAIR FRENCH asked how many juveniles whose records will be released will be represented by someone who will receive notice of the release. MR. STEINER said there is no notice provision, and a juvenile may not have a lawyer unless there is an ongoing CINA case. CHAIR FRENCH asked if in his judgment notice isn't necessary. MR. STEINER responded that that was one reason he worked closely to preserve the option to litigate. CHAIR FRENCH recalled that the Public Defender Agency rarely takes a position on a bill. He asked if it was fair to say he didn't oppose it. MR. STEINER confirmed that he didn't take a position on the bill, but some sections, Section 4 in particular, were an improvement. 2:05:24 PM CHAIR FRENCH announced he would hold HB 343 in committee.