Pilot program could make Jefferson County juvenile court records - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Pilot program could make Jefferson County juvenile court records public

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Lawmakers may open the door to the family and juvenile court system in Kentucky.

Currently, family and juvenile court records are sealed, but Senate Bill 157 would create a test program in a handful of counties to see family court and felony juvenile court cases opened to the public. The parties would have to be at least 14 years old.

The four-year pilot program would be monitored by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Judges would still be able to seal proceedings based on specific guidelines.

County Attorney Mike O'Connell says he'd like to see Jefferson County become one of the pilots.

"I think that the more transparency we can have, the better people operate: judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys," O'Connell said.

The move comes about 18 months after Savannah Dietrich fought to have her case opened, claiming the court gave the teens who sexually assaulted her a pass.

"In my opinion, it's one of the best ways to achieve the highest level of advocacy and judicial oversight that you can ever have," O'Connell said.

But some parents aren't applauding the idea.

"I do not -- do not -- want my son's whole life based on what he did under the age of 18, because these are mistakes," said Aileen Bryant, a parent.

Bryant waited in the Hall of Justice, knowing whatever happens to her son inside Courtroom 306 stays there.

"I know what he did, and you know what? I know it doesn't warrant cameras in a courtroom like he done killed someone," she said.

Many defense attorneys agree. Leslie Smith sat beside Josh Young when he was acquitted of killing his stepbrother. The case created a media firestorm as Young was tried as an adult.

"Lack of transparency is the protection that those kids deserve," Smith said. "I think it's a terrible idea to open proceedings at all. There's a reason kids need that confidentiality, and the reason is that simple taint that can follow someone around for the rest of their lives."

For now, regardless of the outcome, Bryant says she just wants to get her son back on the right track.

"He said some things to the officer while he was angry and they got him for terroristic threatening," she said. "I'm going to do everything I can to see that he see the consequences of his actions right now, so at least when he's 18, he can look back and say, 'I don't want no more of that.'"

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