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Public Court Records Access In Danger?

Posted by Bill on February 14, 2008

justice.jpg  From the Capital Blog, Ohio, Capital Blog, a view of public records and access to court records from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio.  Ohio’s Supreme Court has drafted rules for public access to court records.  See draft Supreme Court of Ohio Rules

Chief Justice Moyer writes a good explanation of issues facing courts today and how much “public” court information and filings should be available for access via the internet or at the courthouse.   The Ohio Supreme Court rules govern how the public accesses court records.  Before the internet, many, many years ago, anyone could go to the courthouse and comb through all public records filings.  

Public records are valuable resources for the news media, public and private investigators, genealogists and other researchers.  With advent of the internet and the availability of public record information on-line, private information contained in public records is for the taking by a click of the mouse.  Where is the line drawn for public access to public records and electronic access to private information contained in public records.  This is the issue the Ohio Supreme Court is addressing. 

I quickly read over the proposed rules, and the Court is trying to balance the access to public records while still protecting electronic access to private information contained in some public records.  While availability of public record information may be limited through internet access, it is important to maintain complete access to public records at the courthouse. 

The Virginia Supreme Court conducted a similar effort last year in proposing amended rules for accessing court records.  See Prior Post  The Virginia Supreme Court, as well as the Ohio Supreme Court, allows subjects of a case to request limited public access.  If a person is conducting research at the courthouse and the record is limited, the researcher will have to request the court’s permission to access the redacted information.  How is this accomplished?  No answer is available at this time.

Now, below is a quote Chief Justice Moyer emphasized, so true, so true:   

“Public records are the people’s records. The officials in whose custody they happen to be are mere trustees for the people . . .”  So wrote Judge Rufus B. Smith of the Superior Court of Cincinnati (a body that no longer exists) in 1901.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc.

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One Response to “Public Court Records Access In Danger?”

  1. Larry A. Peters said

    It’s just not a simple divorce anymore. The powers to be has removed our cell phone purhasing power. They are doing away with out social security searches. They have eliminated texting, and now there is a new creature on the block. There is a group going around pinging cell phone towers to follow people, than close contact such as the hare and hounds and driving people insane so the other side can get a divorce and not share. It’s just a matter of time before the powers to be, wraps around this one and once again we get a bad name. Remember, it will all go back to the gumshoe sitting in his car waiting for something to happen, if we don’t control our brothers who insist on doing stupid thing to draw attention to ourselves. Lawyers are going to have to step up to the plate and start usiing the power of the subpoena to get the tools we need to finish the case. It doesn’t matter whether it is civil or criminal they arre going to have to start being responsible for their cases.

    Larry A. Peters
    Winchester, Va.

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