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State ex rel. S.K.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

March 22, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF S.K STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF S.K.

         APPEAL FROM JUVENILE COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-145-05-MS-A, SECTION “A” Honorable Ernestine S. Gray, Judge

          Katherine M. Dowling STATE OF LOUISIANA Department of Children and Family Services, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA

          Robert Craig Stern KILLEEN & STERN, PC, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu, Judge Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore

          Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu

          S.K. appeals the juvenile court's denial of her motion to correct the central registry maintained by the Department of Children and Family Services ("the Department"). For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

         FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         Article 616 of the Louisiana Children's Code provides that the Department "shall maintain a central registry of all reports of abuse and neglect." In February, 2016, the Department received a "referral" concerning S.K., a teacher at a day care facility. A subsequent investigation conducted by the Department validated a finding of "sexual exploitation, pornography" against S.K. This finding was based upon the Department learning that S.K. had taken a cell phone photograph of a four-year-old male student while he was masturbating under a blanket at nap time, and had texted the photograph to her co-teacher, who was in the teacher's lounge on a break. S.K. acknowledged having taken the photograph but explained that she took it and sent it to her co-teacher seeking direction from her co-teacher as to how to handle the situation. S.K. further explained that it was impossible to tell what the child was doing from looking at the photograph.

         Following an investigation by the Department, the validated finding of "sexual exploitation, pornography" against S.K. was recorded in the Department's central registry.[1] Objecting to that finding, S.K. filed a motion to correct the registry in juvenile court pursuant to Louisiana Children's Code article 616.1, which provides, in pertinent part:

A. When a report alleging abuse or neglect is recorded as justified by the department in the central registry but when no petition is subsequently filed alleging that the child is in need of care, the individual who is the subject of the finding may file a written motion seeking correction of that entry and all related department records in the court exercising juvenile jurisdiction in the parish in which the finding was made.
B. Prior to the hearing, the motion shall be served on the department and the district attorney.
C. If neither the department nor the district attorney files a written objection, the court may enter an order in accordance with Paragraph
D .If after a contradictory hearing with the department and the district attorney the court finds that the report was not justified, in accordance with Article 615(B)(4) or (5), and correction of the record is not contrary to the best interest of the child, it may order the department to correct the central registry entry. If the central registry entry is ordered to be corrected, the department and any law enforcement offices having any record of the report shall be ordered to correct those records and any other records, notations, or references thereto, and the court shall order the department and other custodians of such records to file a sworn affidavit to the effect that their records have been corrected. The affidavit of the department shall also attest to the correction of the central registry entry.

         The juvenile court heard the motion on August 4, 2016, and denied it from the bench, signing a written judgment to that effect the same day. S.K. filed both the instant appeal and a writ application challenging the trial court's ruling, which have been consolidated in this court. As the ...


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