The within application involves three juveniles who had similar complaints filed against them alleging juvenile delinquency resulting in extensive fire damage to property of the Township of Lyndhurst. The applicant is the subrogee of the township. It seeks an order requiring the police to release to it a copy of the police report so that the juveniles can be identified for the purpose of determining the feasibility of instituting a civil suit. In addition thereto it also seeks a transcript of the court proceedings and copies of any and all social reports.
Normally, a victim of an act of juvenile delinquency knows the identity of the juvenile by appearing in court or by means other than a release of information as requested herein. In the case at hand the alleged victim is a municipality and it has taken the position that it is prohibited from releasing this information by N.J.S.A. 2A:4-65, which states in part:
a. Social, medical, psychological, legal and other records of the court and probation department, and records of law enforcement agencies, pertaining to juveniles charged under this act, shall be strictly safeguarded from public inspection.
The statute then sets forth the persons or agencies entitled to said records. N.J.S.A. 2A:4-65(a) (6) provides:
(6) Any person or agency interested in a case or in the work of the agency keeping the records, by order of the court for good cause shown.
The applicant argues that it is entitled to a release of the requested information so that it may institute a civil action if it so decides. It further argues that if the identities of the juveniles are not disclosed it shall be deprived of its constitutional right to pursue its civil remedy. The juveniles maintain that N.J.S.A. 2A:4-65 prohibits the release
of the requested information and that to do so would be detrimental to their welfare.
The confidentiality of a juvenile proceeding is not absolute. In Davis v. Alaska , 415 U.S. 308, 94 S. Ct. 1105, 39 L. Ed. 2d 347 (1974), the Supreme Court stated, "In this setting we conclude that the right of confrontation is paramount to the State's policy of protecting a juvenile offender." In Davis the state had obtained a protective order preventing any reference to the record of a juvenile witness. The state argued that exposure of the record would likely cause impairment of rehabilitative goals of the juvenile correctional procedures.
State in Interest of A.S. , 130 N.J. Super. 388, (J.D.R.C. 1974), and State v. Brown , 132 N.J. Super. 584, (Law Div. 1975), both permitted the use of a juvenile transcript for the purpose of confrontation. The court rules also deal with the question of disclosure and indiscriminate public inspection. R. 5:10-6(b) provides in part:
No public use shall be made of the stenographic or sound record, or a transcript thereof, of any hearing or trial by any person, including a party, except in the course of an appeal or, if no juvenile is involved in the proceeding, ...