This appeal involves the standards and procedures for in camera review and judicial disclosure of a parent's presumptively-confidential juvenile records in child welfare litigation brought by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency ("the Division"), a context not addressed in existing case law.
The Law Guardian objected to the father having unsupervised parenting time with his eighteen-month-old daughter, having learned that he had been adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile several years earlier after for committing sexual offenses upon two minors. The father opposed the court reviewing or disclosing the juvenile records, asserting they are confidential under N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60.
After hearing oral argument, the Family Part judge reviewed the father's records in camera. The judge then released the records in their entirety to counsel, pursuant to a protective order confining their use to the present Title 30 litigation. The father has appealed the judge's rulings.
The panel affirms the Family Part judge's decision to conduct an in camera review of the records. The panel also upholds the judge's denial of the father's request for the court to conduct an additional hearing after the in camera review was completed. However, because the court's decision to release the records without further hearing was not accompanied by a statement of reasons, as required by case law and Rule 1:7-4, the panel remands this matter for the court to reconsider the matter, make any appropriate modifications, and generate the requisite statement of reasons.