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Court rules on media access to CHINS cases

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For the second time this month, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled on media access of CHINS records in a high-profile case involving the death of a child. In a ruling issued today in In the Matter of T.B., a child alleged to be a Child in Need of Services; Charity Bailey v. Indiana Newspapers, Inc., No. 49A02-0712-JV-1007, Charity Bailey challenged several orders issued by the Marion Superior Court, Juvenile Division, granting release of court and agency records to The Indianapolis Star and Fox 59 News following the death of her 3-year-old daughter, T.B. Bailey and her boyfriend, Lawrence Green, allegedly neglected and murdered T.B.

The juvenile court granted media access to a pending CHINS proceeding involving Bailey and T.B. at the time of T.B.'s death, a transcript of an August 2007 review hearing in the pending CHINS proceeding, a closed January 2006 CHINS proceeding involving Bailey and T.B., records of two juvenile delinquency proceedings involving Bailey, and Indiana Department of Child Services and Marion County Department of Child Services records involving T.B.

The appellate court affirmed the juvenile court in its release of the pending CHINS proceeding and the closed CHINS proceeding pursuant to Indiana Code Section 31-39-2-10, and IDCS and MCDCS records pursuant to I.C. Section 31-33-18-1.5, wrote Judge Terry Crone. The transcript of the pending proceeding shouldn't have been released, because under I.C. Section 31-32-6-2, the appellate court believed a "proceeding" is an actual hearing or trial, not the transcript of the hearing or trial. If the legislature had intended otherwise, it could have written the statute to include transcripts, wrote Judge Crone.

Bailey's juvenile delinquency proceedings records also shouldn't have been released because her alleged neglect and murder of T.B. weren't the basis for the delinquency actions, so the juvenile court erred in releasing them pursuant to I.C. 31-39-2-8. Also in the opinion, the Court of Appeals highlights I.C. Section 31-39-1-1, which provides that the confidentiality provisions of that chapter apply to all records of juvenile court except "records involving an adult charged with a crime or criminal contempt of court."

Noting it would be a futile exercise to try to determine which records fall under this exception now, the appellate court wrote it believed the legislative intent behind that exception applies only to juvenile court records that relate specifically to both the adult and the charged crime, wrote Judge Crone.

On Oct. 10, another Court of Appeals panel addressed the release of CHINS records to the media concerning the siblings of a murdered child in In the matter of K.B. and B.L; Amanda Brooks Lay, mother v. Department of Child Services. That panel found the trial court erred in releasing the caseworker's investigatory report and granting access to the siblings' CHINS records.

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