You may have been similarly frustrated as the reporter I overheard at the court clerk’s office. He was trying to convince a court clerk that a probation report was a public record. He was probably right but he didn’t have the Penal Code section in print to back up his claim. Here’s the skinny. Probation Officer Reports on a currently adjudicated case are public records for 60 days after the judgment is pronounced. [Penal Code 1203.05] If the defendant is subsequently charged with another offense, the prior probation report becomes a public record. It’s all in California Penal Code 1203.05.
The California First Amendment Project, Pocket Guide to Access to Courts and Court Records, addresses the code but doesn’t refer to any court cases that may have weighted in on the law.
And the text of PC 1203.05:
1203.05. Any report of the probation officer filed with the court,including any report arising out of a previous arrest of the person who is the subject of the report, may be inspected or copied only as follows:
(a) By any person, from the date judgment is pronounced or probation granted or, in the case of a report arising out of a previous arrest, from the date the subsequent accusatory pleading is filed, to and including 60 days from the date judgment is pronounced or probation is granted, whichever is earlier.
(b) By any person, at any time, by order of the court, upon filing a petition therefor by the person.
(c) By the general public, if the court upon its own motion orders that a report or reports shall be open or that the contents of the report or reports shall be disclosed.
(d) By any person authorized or required by law to inspect or receive copies of the report.
(e) By the district attorney of the county at any time.
(f) By the subject of the report at any time.