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AGO 1951 No. 003 - April 04, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

PUBLIC RECORDS ‑- DESTRUCTION OF ‑- PERTAINING TO JUVENILES IN INSTITUTIONS AFTER THEY REACH 21 YEARS OF AGE.

1. Certain state officials only may authorize destruction of juvenile records in state schools.

2. There is no authority to ever "seal" such records.

3. A sound discretion would permit information therein contained being made available to other governmental officials.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    April 4, 1951

Honorable Van R. Hinkle
Supervisor
Department of Public Institutions
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 3

Dear Sir:

            You request an opinion relative to

            (1) The destruction of records and files relating to juveniles committed to Washington State Training School for Boys and State School for Boys;

            (2) Re the sealing of such records upon the inmate reaching a certain age; and

            (3) Whether information therein contained may be made available to such public agencies such as the FBI.

            Summarized we conclude:

            (1) There is no authority to destroy such records except when authorized by a committee of certain State officers;

            (2) There is no authority for the "sealing" of such records;

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (3) Whether information therein contained may be made available is at the discretion of the State Board of Control by proper regulation.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The destruction of records of the above named state juvenile schools is controlled by Rem. Rev. Stat. §§ 10964-20 to 10964-29 (1941 Supp.), P.P.C. §§ 817-3 to 817-21.  Under these statutes, public records may be destroyed when more than fifteen years old, and

            "* * * determined to be of no further value either for administrative or historical purposes when authorized in writing by committee hereinafter created."  Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10964-20 (1941 Supp.), P.P.C. § 817-3.

            The committee referred to is composed of

            "The Supervisor of the Division of the Budget, the State Auditor, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General.

            "* * *

            "Authorization shall be by unanimous vote of the Committee."  Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10964-22 (1941 Supp.), P.P.C. § 817-7.

            We have examined the statutes relating to the State Training School for Boys. Rem. Rev. Stat. §§ 10300 to 10308, P.P.C. § 895-37 to § 959-55, the State School for Girls, Rem. Rev. Stat. § 4631 to § 4642, P.P.C. § 959-57, to both Rem. Rev. Stat. § 1980 to § 1086a, P.P.C. § 959-21 to § 959-35, and nowhere do we find any special provision for the destruction or sealing of juvenile records other than the statute above quoted.

            We therefor conclude that no records may be destroyed except in the manner by the statutes provided.  There is, likewise, no authority to "seal" any of such record no matter what age of the juvenile inmate.

            Records of such inmates are also maintained at the office of the State Board of Control.  These records "except by consent of the Board" are

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "* * * accessible only to members of the board, the secretary and proper clerks, * * *."  Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10910, P.P.C. § 946-51.

            The availability of this information is within the sound discretion of the State Board of Control under regulations which they may promulgate pursuant to Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10905, P.P.C. § 946-43.  This discretion is based upon the interest of both the juvenile and society, and proper exercise thereof could include such information being made available to proper Federal and State governmental agencies performing their official duties.  We must remember that the various departments of government are basically but servants of the same master and should work in harmony in the performance of their official functions.

            Your questions have no doubt been prompted by certain statutes relating to records of juvenile delinquents and dependent children.  However, we point out that these statutes (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 1700-3 (P. Supp.), P.P.C. § 358-5; Rem. Rev. Stat. § 1987-2, § 1987-3 (P. Supp.), P.P.C. § 359-3 and § 359-5; Rem. Rev. Stat. §§ 1987-12, 1987-12a (1945 Supp.), P.P.C. §§ 359-23, 359-24 (1945 Supp.)), and certain others, all pertain to the records of the county juvenile court and county detention or truant homes.  They do not apply to the institutions about which you inquire.

            We enclose a copy of our December 1, 1943 opinion to the Department of Finance, Budget and Business, dealing with the same general records problem you face.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JENNINGS P. FELIX
Assistant Attorney General

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