McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS INC v. FRESNO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

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Court of Appeal, Fifth District, California.

McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, INC., dba The Fresno Bee;  et al., Petitioners, v. SUPERIOR COURT, Fresno County, Respondent, FRESNO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Real Party in Interest.

No. F016450.

Decided: September 24, 1991

Steinhart & Falconer, and James F. Brelsford, for petitioners. No appearance for Respondent. Max E. Robinson, County Counsel, and Howard K. Watkins, Deputy County Counsel, for Real Party in Interest.

OPINION

Petitioners McClatchy Newspapers, Inc., doing business as The Fresno Bee, and Alex Pulaski challenge a juvenile court order which provides that as a condition for release to petitioners' selected Department of Social Services (DSS) or Child Protective Services (CPS) files that petitioners must agree in a sworn documents not to “publish or disclose the identities of the minor victims, members of or relatives of the families of the minor victims, and persons who provided or provide care and supervision to the minor victims or their siblings, as well as reporters of abuse and case workers and nonmanagerial supervisors employed by Fresno County Department of Social Services who are identified in the documents ․ even if their identifies are known or learned from sources other than the documents to be released.”   Petitioners assert that this limitation is an unconstitutional prior restraint in that it prohibits petitioners from publishing the names of various individuals who may be identified in juvenile records released by real party in interest, Fresno County Department of Social Services even where petitioners obtain those names from other sources.

The protective order quoted above was filed on July 15, 1991.   On July 12, 1991, the Fourth District Court of Appeal published the case of San Bernardino County Dept. of Social Services v. Superior Court (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 188.   Therein the reviewing court held that an order which conditioned a newspaper's attendance at a juvenile court proceeding on the newspaper refraining from publishing the names of any of the minors or publishing any likeness of them, interviewing any of the minors unless the minor's attorney was present, interviewing the minors' caretakers in front of the minors, interviewing any mental health professionals to whom the minors had been referred, and doing any act in the future that might interfere with reunification or have a negative impact upon the providing of unification services infringed upon the freedom of the press to the extent that it restricted what lawfully obtained information the newspaper could publish.

The court reasoned “The juvenile court clearly was without power to restrict the press's right to investigate and publish information which it has lawfully obtained.  (Oklahoma Publishing Co. v. District Court (1977) 430 U.S. 308 ․:  the judiciary cannot prohibit the publication of a juvenile's name and picture when that information has been lawfully obtained by the media;  see also Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co. (1979) 443 U.S. 97․)  Here the court, through its conditions, attempted to prohibit the publication of information without regard to how the press obtained the information.   If the information was or is lawfully obtained, it is beyond the juvenile court's power to restrain the press.”  (Id. at 206.)

This court concludes that remand is necessary to permit the juvenile court to reconsider the release of the Department of Social Services's documents in light of San Bernardino County Dept. of Public Social Services v. Superior Court, supra.

Petitioners are entitled to appropriate relief.  (Code of Civ.Proc., § 1085, see Whitney's at The Beach (1970) 3 Cal.3d 258, 266.)   A peremptory writ of mandate is proper and should issue.  (Code of Civ.Proc., § 1088;  Palma v. U.S. Industrial Fasteners, Inc. (1984) 36 Cal.3d 171, 180-181;  Goodenough v. Superior Court (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 692, 697.)

Let a peremptory writ of mandate issue directing respondent court to vacate its order of July 15, 1991, and reconsider the release of the Fresno County Department of Social Service's documents in light of San Bernardino County Dept. of Public Social Services v. Superior Court, supra.   This court takes no position on how a juvenile court's discretion should be exercised.

FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE.   Before ARDAIZ, Acting P.J., and DIBIASO and VARTABEDIAN, JJ.

THE COURT *