Lawmakers Call For Open Juvenile Court Cases

Many courtroom proceedings are open to the public, except when children are at the center of attention. But Julia Johnson says that closed door policy meant she was kept in the dark regarding the welfare of her 3 year old nephew.

“We weren't allowed in any of the court proceedings ..Anything that was done,” says Johnson.

Johnson says the judge took custody of her nephew away from his father. And because of the confidential nature of the custody hearings...despite the fact that she's a foster parent herself...her nephew was put in another foster family.

“To have a family member (her nephews) in foster care makes no sense whatsoever. He has plenty of family.”

But lawmakers are filing a bill to open up child protection proceedings.

The bill would allow anyone to attend the hearings. One idea is to hold judges, social workers, and attorneys accountable when child custody or protection issues are discussed.

Chief Justice Joseph Lambert is proposing a 4 year pilot program.

“Relatives who could in fact contribute to the welfare of the child would not be excluded,” says Lambert.

“Tthey're very frustrated,” Jefferson County Family Court Judge Patricia Walker FitzGeralnd says of family members she’s had to bar from courtrooms. “They feel like they're being shut out of the process. They feel like it hinders their ability to help their family members.”

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