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In Re K.T., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Butte County Department of Employment and Social Services Et


May 20, 2011


(Super. Ct. No. J35290)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Butz , J.

In re K.T.



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

In an earlier appeal in In re K.T. (Feb. 16, 2010, C061397 [nonpub. opn.]), we upheld the juvenile court's order finding that L.M., minor K.T.'s former foster mother, was not K.T.'s de facto parent. L.M. filed the present appeal from a subsequent order denying her access to K.T.'s juvenile court records. We shall affirm.


On April 30, 2010, L.M. filed a "Request for Disclosure of Juvenile Case File" (form JV-570). She stated she needed K.T.'s records "for the appeal I will be filing because I contend this abuse of [K.T.] was part of a retaliation" by her husband and his agents "who made false accusations against me and deprived me of my health and safety, my child and my property via means of criminal activity and denial of due process." She also claimed she needed the records to help her reconstruct the "'trauma story'" and help her recover "from the great bodily injury inflicted on [her] by the traumatic removal of [K.T.] without warning or warrant and the ensuing events."

Attached to L.M.'s request was part of a dependency report, which explains that K.T. had been placed with T.M. and L.M., "Non-Related Extended Family Members," but because of domestic violence between L.M. and T.M., partly witnessed by K.T., K.T. was removed from L.M.'s home on April 23, 2008. The report stated K.T. would be at risk if returned to L.M. "as her home is unsafe and unstable at this time."

Also attached were copies of parts of briefs from a prior appeal, apparently annotated by L.M. as to facts she disputes, and portions of a reporter's transcript of an earlier juvenile court hearing, where L.M. was denied de facto parent status, also apparently annotated by L.M.

L.M.'s request was opposed by Special County Counsel David W. Kennedy on the ground that L.M. "is not related to the minor and has no beneficial relationship to him. She apparently believes the minor is her child. She is on a 'fishing expedition' for information she can subsequently use in a civil action against her prior husband and other targets of her vexatious litigation." The opposition also noted that "if one peruses the attachments [to the request], it becomes clear that [L.M.] is interested in contesting jurisdictional findings of this court in excess of two years old, in addition to suing everyone and anyone whose name is associated with Butte County. Those findings are no longer appealable and are res judicata. Her relationship to this case is non-existent and the records should not be opened to her."

The juvenile court denied the motion on May 17, 2010, finding L.M. had not shown good cause to obtain the records she sought. L.M. filed a timely notice of appeal.


Although L.M. appears in this court without counsel, we must apply ordinary appellate procedural rules to this appeal. (Rappleyea v. Campbell (1994) 8 Cal.4th 975, 984-985; Doran v. Dreyer (1956) 143 Cal.App.2d 289, 290.) We must presume court orders are correct. (In re Marriage of Arceneaux (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1130, 1133; Denham v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, 564.) A party challenging an order has the burden to show error by providing an adequate record and making coherent legal arguments, supported by authority, or the claims will be deemed forfeited. (People v. Freeman (1994) 8 Cal.4th 450, 482, fn. 2 [failure to provide clear arguments]; Ballard v. Uribe (1986) 41 Cal.3d 564, 574-575 [failure to provide adequate record]; In re Marriage of Nichols (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 661, 672-673, fn. 3 [failure to provide authority].)

L.M.'s opening brief presents two argument headings.

The first headed argument contends L.M. was wrongly excluded from a hearing on a supplemental petition. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 387.) However, this contention appears to relate to the prior appeal, because no supplemental petition is in the record on appeal from the order denying L.M. access to the juvenile records. Accordingly, we decline to address this contention.

L.M.'s second argument attacks the denial of her request for disclosure of K.T.'s records. She fails to discuss the legal standards to be applied by the juvenile court or this court in considering the disclosure of juvenile records.

A person seeking documents filed in a "'juvenile case file'" "must describe in detail the reasons the records are being sought and their relevancy to the proceeding or purpose for which petitioner wishes to inspect or obtain the records." (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 5.552(a), (c)(2).)

"Generally, a juvenile court has broad and exclusive authority to determine whether and to what extent to grant access to confidential juvenile records pursuant to [Welfare and Institutions Code] section 827. [Citations.] Review of a juvenile court's decision . . . is for abuse of discretion." (In re Elijah S. (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 1532, 1541.) In considering a petition for access to such records, "the juvenile court must balance the interests of the minor and those of the public, and permit disclosure only where not inconsistent with the best interests of the juvenile whose file is sought." (Id. at p. 1542.)

In this case the juvenile court found L.M. had not shown good cause for release of the records. Given that we have previously upheld the juvenile court's finding that L.M. is not a de facto parent, and she has no apparent legal connection to K.T., we cannot say the court abused its broad discretion.

L.M. cites In re Anthony H. (2005) 129 Cal.App.4th 495, and suggests it compels reversal. We disagree. That case held that the juvenile court abused its discretion by not exercising its discretion, wrongly thinking that a federal court had resolved the issue of whether juvenile court records should have been disclosed to Anthony H.'s grandmother. (Id. at pp. 501-505.) The opinion also held that the grandmother's claim--that she needed the records to pursue a federal action arising out of the removal of the minor from her home--presented a colorable reason for disclosure, which had to be balanced by the juvenile court against the minor's right to privacy. (Id. at pp. 505-506.) However, Anthony H. did not hold that the reason given compelled the disclosure of such records, only that that reason had to be balanced against the minor's privacy interests. (Id. at p. 506.) Unlike in Anthony H., the record here does not show the juvenile court failed to balance relevant factors in exercising its discretion whether or not to grant L.M.'s petition.

New claims raised by L.M. in the reply brief come too late. (Kahn v. Wilson (1898) 120 Cal. 643, 644; People v. Baniqued (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 13, 29.)


The order denying L.M.'s petition for disclosure of juvenile court records is affirmed.

We concur: RAYE , P. J. ROBIE , J.


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