Amicus Curiae Brief of Columbia Legal Services
Katara Jordan
Casey Trupin
Ann LoGerfo
SummaryOriginal

Summary

Unsealed juvenile records disproportionately affect youth of color, hindering their opportunities for reintegration into society and exacerbating the difficulties they face.

2014 | State Juristiction

Amicus Curiae Brief of Columbia Legal Services

Keywords youth of color; unsealed juvenile records; record sealing; rehabilitation; reintegration into society; Ishikawa factors; racial disparities
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Summary of Argument

Youth of color are disproportionately represented at each point within the juvenile justice system. Thus, any decision of this Court relating to juvenile justice and its reverberating impacts on adult life should take into consideration the very real racial disparities that exist and the disproportionate harm to this population created by open juvenile records.

At the time of a youth's arrest, an electronically available public record is created. This record remains easily available whether or not the juvenile is charged with a crime. Any additional filing in court also remains open and electronically available whether or not a youth is found guilty. These records create significant impediments to rehabilitation, reintegration, and success as an adult. Youth who have an open record face barriers to employment, housing, and obtaining student loans.

These barriers are more pronounced for youth of color whose overrepresentation at every stage of the proceedings has a "cumulative and enduring effect [that] can increase the risk factors that contribute to [a youth of color's] continued involvement in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems."

Given the difficulty of sealing a juvenile record, youth of color rarely seal them. Imposing additional requirements, such as the application of the factors set forth in Seattle Times Co. v. Ishikawa, 97 Wn.2d 30, 37-39, 640 P.2d 716 (1982), at every juvenile record sealing hearing would make the sealing process even more onerous, ensure that even fewer youth of color will move to seal their records, and exacerbate the problem of racial disparity within our society. This Court should not impose requirements in addition to those that already present substantial barriers to record sealing for former juvenile offenders.

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Summary of Argument

The disproportionate representation of youth of color throughout the juvenile justice system necessitates a thorough examination of the implications of open juvenile records on their adult lives. The accessibility of these records, even without a criminal charge, presents significant obstacles to rehabilitation, reintegration, and overall success. The negative impacts on employment, housing, and educational opportunities are exacerbated for youth of color due to their overrepresentation at every stage of the juvenile justice process, creating a cycle of continued involvement in the criminal justice system. The current process of sealing juvenile records, already challenging, is further compounded by the proposed imposition of additional requirements, hindering access to record sealing for youth of color and exacerbating existing racial disparities. The Court should not impose additional burdens on the record sealing process, particularly given the significant barriers already present, to ensure that former juvenile offenders, especially youth of color, have a reasonable chance at a successful future.

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Summary of Argument

Juvenile justice system involvement disproportionately affects youth of color, a reality that warrants consideration when examining its impact on adult life. Publicly accessible juvenile records, available even without charges, hinder rehabilitation, reintegration, and future success. These records create obstacles for employment, housing, and education, particularly for youth of color, whose overrepresentation throughout the system amplifies the cumulative impact, increasing the risk of continued criminal justice involvement.

The difficulty of sealing juvenile records, coupled with the additional requirements of the Seattle Times Co. standard, makes the process even more burdensome. This further disadvantages youth of color, who are less likely to seek record sealing, ultimately exacerbating racial disparities. This court should not impose further hurdles to sealing records, considering the already existing significant barriers faced by former juvenile offenders.

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Summary of Argument

Young people of color are more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system than their white peers. This means that any decisions the court makes about how juveniles are treated will have a bigger impact on young people of color.

When a young person is arrested, a public record is created that is easily accessible online. This record stays available, even if the young person isn't charged with a crime. If a case is filed in court, that record also stays open and online, even if the youth isn't found guilty. These open records make it hard for young people to get back on track after they've been in the juvenile justice system. They can't get jobs, find places to live, or get student loans.

These problems are worse for young people of color because they are more likely to be in the system in the first place. This creates a cycle where young people of color are more likely to stay in the system.

It's really hard to get a juvenile record sealed, and young people of color rarely try to do it. Adding more requirements to the process, like the ones in the Seattle Times Co. v. Ishikawa case, would make it even harder to seal records. This would mean even fewer young people of color would try to seal their records, and the problem of racial disparity would get worse. The court shouldn't add any more requirements to the process of sealing juvenile records.

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Summary of Argument

Kids and teens of color are often treated unfairly in the justice system. This means they are more likely to be arrested, charged with crimes, and sent to juvenile detention. Even if they are not found guilty, these records can stay on their files, making it really hard for them to have a good life later on.

These records can stop them from getting jobs, finding a place to live, or even getting loans for college. This is especially hard for kids of color because they are already more likely to be in trouble with the law. If these records are hard to get rid of, kids of color will have even more trouble fixing their lives.

The court should make it easier for kids to get rid of their records, not harder. This would help them have a better future and be more equal in society.

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Footnotes and Citation

Cite

Brief of Columbia Legal Services Amici Curiae, State v. S.J.C., No. 69154-6-I (Wash. Aug. 20, 2014).

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