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State in Interest of S.F.

January 30, 1976

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, IN THE INTEREST OF S.F., A JUVENILE


Rubin, P.J.J.D.R.C.

Rubin

This is a motion to obtain a copy of the entire transcript of a juvenile proceeding as part of the discovery of a civil action involving Lois Gannon, individually and as executrix of the estate of Joseph A. Gannon, against S.F., an infant, B.F. and J.F. The motion is resisted by counsel for defendants.

In September 1974 a fatal accident occurred on Route 18 in New Brunswick. Joseph Gannon, driver of one of the vehicles, died as a result of the accident. S.F., a juvenile, the driver of the other car in the accident, was charged with juvenile delinquency. The matter was referred to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, resulting in a disposition in favor of the juvenile.

Subsequently, Lois Gannon, executrix of the estate of Joseph Gannon, started suit for wrongful death against S.F. as driver of the car owned by his mother B.F.

Plaintiff Lois Gannon by motion seeks release of the entire transcript of the juvenile proceeding as a part of the discovery in the wrongful death action.

Juvenile records may be inspected pursuant to R. 5:10-7.

The Court may, in its discretion, in the best interest of a juvenile or adult or for other good cause, permit inspection of any procedural or social record. * * *

Plaintiff here contends that discovery in a civil case growing out of the same transaction under various theories is good cause, and arguments are presented to support this contention.

First, plaintiff argues that the juvenile's identity was already breached in that his name and the disposition of the juvenile's case was publicized in connection with the prior proceeding in the juvenile court. Confidentiality was undermined and is therefore no longer important.

This is clearly a fallacious argument. One cannot compare the release of a name and disposition with the release of the total transcript. Other material is contained in the transcript and should not be revealed without good reason not shown here.

Plaintiff contends that evidentiary problems inherent in wrongful death actions require special consideration -- here, breach of the special juvenile confidentiality rule. In some cases this might be true where a witness available for the juvenile proceeding is not present for the later civil case. In the case before us we do not have this problem. Both defendant juvenile and his passenger are available and can be deposed and later testify.

Plaintiff also contends that there exists a right of confrontation which would be impaired without the release of the entire transcript. The ...


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