In the age of the internet, it’s nearly impossible to un-ring the bell of publishing information online, a point that Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González highlights in his recent Op-Ed [“Protecting the identity of juveniles in court records is key to rehabilitation”].
At the Mockingbird Society, we have worked on several pieces of legislation designed to strengthen the juvenile record sealing process. What we’ve discovered is that the goals of record sealing are undermined due to the public dissemination of juvenile records prior to sealing. Young people are told when they seal a record that they may proceed as if no record exists. But if a record has been published online or sold to a third-party background checker, the promise of privacy is a false one that undermines the very premise of sealing a record.
We applaud the leadership of the Supreme Court in proposing rules that address and codify some of the most egregious flaws in our handling of juvenile records. We urge the Court’s Rules Committee to address any remaining technical concerns and identify a new implementation date as soon as possible.
The young people of Washington are waiting.
Liz Trautman, director of policy and advocacy, the Mockingbird Society, Seattle