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Court: CHINS records aren't available to media

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The circumstances that led to two siblings being deemed as children in need of services and the media attention their family received don't justify the trial court allowing the media access to the children's CHINS records, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Siblings K.B. and B.L. were removed from their parents' care in April after criminal charges were filed against the mother, Amanda Brooks Lay, and the father, Terry Lay, for the death of their child, K.L., and the battery and neglect of K.B. and B.L. Shortly after charges were filed, the Vanderburgh trial court granted the media access to K.B. and B.L.'s CHINS records, citing Indiana Code Section 32-39-2-10 and previous access granted to CHINS cases.

In In the Matter of: K.B. and B.L., Amanda Brooks Lay, mother v. Department of Child Services, No. 82A03-0806-JV-266, Amanda Lay challenged granting the media access to the records. Lay filed a motion to correct error. The Vanderburgh County Department of Child Services also shared its concerns of opening the records to the media but left the decision to the trial court's discretion. The court denied Lay's motion.

But the trial court should never have granted media access to records dealing with K.B. and B.L., because the investigatory report by the caseworker, which is governed by I.C. Section 31-33-18-2, doesn't allow for media representatives to access the report, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. The investigatory report is confidential and not to be made available to the public.

The trial court erred in releasing the records under I.C. Section 32-39-2-10. In its order, it said it was granting access to educate the public, address the community's interest in the welfare of the children, and give the public new insight into the workings of the trial court and DCS. While these are laudable goals, they are not reasons to release the records at the expense of K.B. and B.L, wrote Judge Barnes. These children are entitled to the same type of privacy that would be afforded to less high-profile CHINS cases, the judge continued.

Because there is not a specific ongoing threat to the safety or welfare of the community, the trial court abused its discretion in disclosing the CHINS records to the media.

The court also addressed the ambiguity in Indiana statute addressing under what circumstances the legislature intended any interested person to be able to access juvenile court records and invited the legislature to clarify the statute to ensure the confidentiality of legal records involving children.

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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