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Name: S.V. v. Superior Court (Harris)
Case #: G053903
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/31/2017

Juvenile court erred in ordering the release of a redacted portion of a minor’s sealed juvenile delinquency file to a defendant in a pending criminal case. A juvenile court dismissed a delinquency petition and sealed the minor S.V.’s records pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 786. Harris, a criminal defendant charged with pimping, pandering, and human trafficking of S.V., later filed a request for disclosure of S.V.’s sealed records as she is likely to be a witness at Harris’ upcoming trial. The juvenile court reviewed S.V.’s file and ordered a redacted portion be released to Harris. S.V. filed a petition for writ of mandate to stop the release. Held: Petition granted. Section 786 requires a juvenile court to seal a minor’s juvenile delinquency file in certain circumstances, and a record sealed under section 786 may be “accessed, inspected, or utilized” only under eight specified circumstances. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 786, subd. (f)(1)(A)-(H).) Under the maxim of statutory construction, if exemptions are specified in a statute, the court may not imply additional exemptions unless there is a clear legislative intent to the contrary. After reviewing the eight exceptions and acknowledging Harris’ discovery rights under Brady v. Maryland and his constitutional right to confront and cross-examine witnesses at trial, the court determined that Harris’ request did not fall into any of the exceptions and therefore it was improper for the juvenile court to inspect and disclose any portion of the minor’s records. The court concluded its holding was supported by an analogous case, In re James H. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 1078, which dealt with the release of records after a discretionary sealing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 781. The juvenile court was ordered to deny the request for disclosure.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: