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John (2012-11) Doe v. State of Idaho

October 4, 2012

JOHN (2012-11) DOE, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, RESPONDENT. STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOHN (2012-11) DOE,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bonner County. Hon. Steven C. Verby, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge

2012 Opinion No. 52

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Order denying motion to seal criminal case file, vacated and case remanded.

John Doe appeals from the district court's order denying his motion to seal the criminal case file from his 1990 felony conviction for battery with the intent to commit rape. Because we conclude that the district court did not correctly interpret the law governing Doe's request, we vacate the order and remand for further proceedings.

1

I.

BACKGROUND

In 1990, Doe was charged with battery with the intent to commit rape, Idaho Code § 18- 911, and forcible sexual penetration with a foreign object, I.C. § 18-6608. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to the battery charge and the remaining offense was dismissed. The district court imposed a unified sentence of six years, with two years fixed. Doe was paroled in 1994. Upon his release, Doe was required to register as a sex offender but, on his motion, in 2006 the district court released him from registration requirements after finding he was no longer a risk to reoffend.

In 2010, Doe filed a motion for an order sealing his criminal case file, as authorized by Idaho Court Administrative Rule 32(i), on the ground that he had suffered economic harm because of public access to information in that file. He said that some of his current employer's clients refused to allow him to work on their projects when background checks revealed that he was a convicted felon. Doe also said that he aspired to become a fire marshal in his community, and a background check disclosing his conviction might hinder his ability to obtain that office.

At the conclusion of the hearing in Doe's motion, which the State expressly did not oppose, the district court orally denied the requested relief, explaining: I don't think this rule is calculated to essentially preclude the public from knowing about a previous judgment and commitment that was entered or the crime for which an individual was convicted. . . . I think the rule relates to individuals other than the defendant in terms of potential, what I'm going to state, would be economic or financial loss or harm. I don't think it applies to [Doe] as a defendant; i.e., that is, the consequences of having committed a felony may include financial or economic loss.

The court then directed Doe to prepare an order for the court's signature, and the order drafted by Doe was issued. Doe appeals, contending that the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion.

II.

ANALYSIS

Decisions of a court to grant or deny a request to seal or redact a judicial record are subject to review for abuse of discretion. State v. Turpen, 147 Idaho 869, 872, 216 P.3d 627, 630 (2009). On review, we ask:

(1) whether the lower court rightly perceived the issue as one of discretion; (2) whether the court acted within the outer boundaries of such discretion and consistently with any legal standards applicable to specific choices; and (3) ...


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