Private Investigators In Virginia

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Posts Tagged ‘court records’

Competative Intelligence Update September 2013

Posted by Bill on October 8, 2013

One of the most popular sites for many investigators, attorneys and researchers is Sabrina I. Pacifici’s fantastic Competitive Intelligence site. See Competitive Intelligence Guide – Updated as of September 2013.

Sabrina I. Pacifici is Founder, Editor, Publisher of LLRX.Com; (established in 1996), the free web journal consistently recognized as a publisher of comprehensive, meticulously documented, non-partisan guides and content-rich resources, commentary and actionable information on Internet research and web-related current awareness issues invaluable to legal, academic, corporate, government and public interest researchers. LLRX  is a great site to keep up with all the latest in legal and technology resources.

Good reading and keep investigating and pay no attention to the forced WordPress Ads that pop up.

Bill Lowrance
Lowrance Law LLC
Attorney, Investigator and Legal Consultant

Posted in attorneys, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, PIAVA, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators, Public Records, surveillance | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Competitive Intelligence & Internet Research-Update

Posted by Bill on May 5, 2011

Well, Sabrina I. Pacifici did another amazing job of updating her Competitive Intelligence resource at  Competitive Intelligence. If you want to have one resource that assists you in conducting thorough research, this site is for you. Sabrina is founder and solo Editor, Publisher of LLRX.com, a valuable site for research and resources. Check it out. Sabrina updated her guide in March of this year. The guide is a valuable resource for researching everything and anything. Private investigators, attorneys, researchers and the general public will find the guide a very useful tool.

The site has every type of search engine, people tracking resources, business resources and resources for search news, TV and radio news transcripts.

My one word explanation —- Wow!

Bill Lowrance
Attorney, private investigator, legal consultant
www.lowrancelaw.com

Posted in attorneys, Investigations, lawyers, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators, Public Records, Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

VA Freedom of Information Advisory Council

Posted by Bill on June 8, 2009

Interesting public records activity in Virginia.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, FOIA Council , is having a meeting today the Personal Identifying Information Subcommittee of the FOIA Council. Meeting is today, Monday, June 8, 2009, 1 p.m., in the Speaker’s Conference Room, Sixth Floor, General Assembly Building, 910 Capitol St., Richmond, VA.  See Memo and agenda HERE

Agenda includes:

Review of bills referred by the 2009 Session for further study by the FOIA Council:

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; disclosure of official records; exceptions. Provides that records of the Department shall be subject to the disclosure provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, except that personal information, as defined in § 2.2-3801, of individual applicants for or holders of any hunting, fishing, boating, or trapping license issued by an agent of the Department shall be withheld from public disclosure, provided that such individuals have requested that the Department not disclose such information. However, statistical summaries, abstracts, or other records containing information in an aggregate form that does not identify individual applicants or licensees shall be disclosed. The bill provides, however, that such information may be released (i) in accordance with a proper judicial order, (ii) to any law-enforcement agency, officer, or authorized agent thereof acting in the performance of official law-enforcement duties, or (iii) to any person who is the subject of the record.

HB 2471 (Hugo); Freedom of Information Act; salary records of teachers. Provides that the disclosure of the names of individual teachers is not required under FOIA in response to a request for the official salary or rate of pay of employees of a local school board.

HB 2630 (Crockett-Stark); Law-Enforcement Officers’ Privacy Protection Act. Allows a law-enforcement officer to request that personal information about the officer be withheld from disclosure on public records. For purposes of the Act, “personal information” includes the officer’s name, social security number, address, phone number, and any other information that could be used to physically locate the officer. NOTE:  You will recall that Delegate Crockett-Stark was present at the April 27, 2009 FOIA Council meeting to discuss HB 2630.  She indicated that there is a similar law in place in Ohio that was enacted because a family member of a law enforcement officer was murdered after personal information about the officer was made available. She stated that her sheriff had requested a similar law in Virginia.  Staff noted that in Virginia personal information about public employees is exempt from FOIA; however, real property assessment records and court records are open to the public as a matter of law.   The Council noted that there are two competing policies at work in this instance– privacy versus a community’s awareness of the identity of its officers.  The Council asked Delegate Crockett-Stark to have her contact call Delegate Griffith to identify the specific issue of concern so that the scope of the bill could be narrowed to address the issue.

SB 1332 (Cuccinelli); Private entities operating, managing, or supervising any portion of the state highway system. Provides that a private entity that operates, manages, or supervises any portion of the state highway system and receives funding from the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions shall be considered a public body for purposes of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.) of the Code of Virginia as it relates to that portion of the private entity’s business operations responsible for operating, managing, or supervising the portion of the state highway system. 

At the April 27, 2009 FOIA Council meeting, members of the Council agreed that the issue behind this bill was unclear.  Senator Griffith directed staff to re-invite Senator Cuccinelli to address the Council at its next meeting.  Therefore no action is required by the Subcommittee at this time.
 
Social Security Numbers and the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (GDCDPA):

Collection of SSNs: The Council has already indicated its intent to continue studying this area, which will coincide with the analysis of the results of last year’s survey regarding collection and use of SSNs.  This year’s study will focus on identifying and eliminating the unnecessary collection of SSNs by government. It is hoped that by limiting collection in the first instance, the need for additional protections to be added later will be reduced or eliminated.  In addition, because the SSN survey produced an unexpectedly large volume of responses that necessitated additional time for analysis, SB 1318/HB 2426 were passed in 2009 as recommendations of the FOIA Council to delay until 2010 the implementation date prohibiting the collection of an individual’s social security number unless collection of such number is (i) authorized or required by state or federal law and (ii) essential for the performance of that agency’s duties.  Note that in light of HB 2427 (May), establishing the Protection of Social Security Numbers Act, as discussed below, the Council needs to decide what further action, if any, needs to be taken

Disclosure of SSNs: HB 2427 (May) establishes the Protection of Social Security Numbers Act (the Act), which will become effective July 1, 2009.  In brief, the Act exempts from FOIA the first five digits of SSNs except under certain limited circumstances, and provides penalties for improper disclosure.  The final four digits of SSNs found in public records will remain open to public disclosure under FOIA.   In past meetings the Council has debated the merits of this and other protective schemes that would limit the disclosure of SSNs.  Again, the Act’s passage in 2009 raises the question of whether any further action regarding disclosure of SSNs is necessary at this time, and if so, what form should that action take.

Bill Lowrance

Posted in attorneys, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators, Public Records, Research, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Virginia Courts Digitally Scanning Court Records

Posted by Bill on May 11, 2008

  Virginia Clerks of the Courts are scanning court records allowing electronic access to court documents normally seen only in the paper file in the clerk’s office.   Lawyers have expressed concern about their client’s personal information in the court records will be seen by anyone on the Internet. 

Read the whole story here: Virginia Lawyers Weekly

Bill Lowrance

President Piava

Information Insights Inc.

 

Posted in attorneys, Investigations, lawyers, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators, Public Records, Research, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in attorneys, Investigations, lawyers, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Research, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Court Records–Need Information

Posted by Bill on January 19, 2008

fairfax-ct-house.jpg Fairfax County, VA, Courthouse, 1863

So, you need to know about searching court records.  There are many commercial databases that provide access to court websites for search records electronically.  There are also many free sites that allow access to court records, sometimes direct to court’s index of records.

With some trepidation, I suggest to look at Court Reference.  If you can get past the advertisements, you can find information about courts in every state, the records online and what is available.  Check it out.

Bill Lowrance

www.lowrancelaw.com

Posted in attorneys, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Federal Courts Limit Case Information

Posted by Bill on December 6, 2007

 New Onerous Court Rules

With new rules providing privacy protection for case files posted on-line in the federal district, bankruptcy and appellate courts which are effective December 1, 2007, identifying specific persons subject of a federal case will be more difficult.  The new rules limit personal identifying data of a party to the case whether it is a civil, criminal or bankruptcy case.  The new rules were proposed by the Judicial Conference in accordance with the E-Government Act of 2002, which requires that each court make publicly available on-line any document filed electronically. The rules require parties to redact certain personal information from each filing.  The Supreme Court came up with the new rules to “protect privacy and security concerns related to electronic filing of documents and the public availablity . . . of documents filed electronically.” 

The Act required the Supreme Court to prescribe rules “to protect privacy and security concerns related to electronic filing of documents and the public availability . . . of documents filed electronically.”

The new privacy rules include Civil Procedure Rule 5.2, Criminal Rule 49.1 and Bankruptcy Rule 9037.   Appellate Rule 25 was amended to incorporate the new privacy directive. The rules can be found at Rules.

The new rules for civil, criminal, and bankruptcy courts require that case files show only the last four digits of a person’s financial account or Social Security number; only the year, not date, of someone’s birth; and only the initials, not name, of persons known to be minors.  Of course, this is restriction is for on-line case information such as you get when you use the Federal Courts Pacer system (Link is on left). 

Social Security and Immigration cases are open to the public but they will not be available for on-line access.  You will have to go to the court clerks office to look at these records.   Judge Lee Rosenthal (S.D. Tex.), chair of the Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure said “These records are often full of sensitive, highly personal information. The most obvious example is medical records. Because of the volume of the records and the extent to which they are made up of such personal information, it is not feasible to use redaction to protect privacy. The rules recognize these practical problems and do not require the parties to redact personal identifier information in these cases.”

Rosenthal added: “Because these filings will remain unredacted, it seemed prudent to keep them off the Internet, where they can be easily searched.” 

Although Social Security and immigration cases still will be available to the public at the courthouse, prohibiting on-line access “balances our long-standing commitment to keeping our case files public with the need to protect privacy in the age of computers,” Rosenthal said.  See full story at Newsletter of Federal Courts

For investigators, attorneys and others needing such public information for legitimate reasons, access is going to be more difficult–meaning higher costs to clients.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in attorneys, FOIA, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Some State Court Records are Online

Posted by Bill on November 26, 2007

 Court Records Going Online

The International Falls Daily Journal reports that the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Web site at Minnesota Judicial allows viewers to search criminal, civil, family and probate cases, as well as check court calendars.  For full story see Daily Journal.   As we all know and as a court clerk stated in the story that “the Web accessible information should not take the place of regular criminal history checks for some purposes.”  “We can’t guarantee 100 percent that this will give up all of anyone’s criminal history,” she said.

Texas

The American Statesman reports that Travis County, TX, leads the state in having fully electronic records.  Travis County recently filed, electronically, its 20,000th court case and scanned and stored its millionth page and collected its millionth dollar in electronic filing fees.  See full story Statesman.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in Investigations, Links, PIAVA, Public Records | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Access to Court Records

Posted by Bill on November 18, 2007

The Ohio Supreme Court announced on November 16, 2007, that it is accepting comments on several proposed amendments to the Court Rules addressing access to court records. (see http://tinyurl.com/2jto8j).  This is the first time the Ohio Supreme Court has considered public access to court records.  The rules proposes that court records are presumed open unless otherwise exempt or confidential by state law.  The rules would let the court allow limited access to records (seal the record); create a process to unseal a record–part or all of the record; and partial redaction or omission of personal information in the records.   

Ohio is not the first state to consider and draft rules to limit access to public court records.  In 2006 the Virginia Supreme Court’s Committee on Access to Court Records issued a draft report to revise court rules to provide  a balance between public access to Virginia court records and the privacy needs of some information in the records.  The Virginia Supreme Court committee proposed that certain personal data be redacted in all court filings, and that parties could seal records.  Personal information to be redacted would be (1) social security numbers, drivers license or military personnel numbers–include only last four digits if needed; (2) information regarding minor children; (3) dates of birth–only year included; and (4) financial information–only last four numbers of accounts.  Of course, some court records are already held confidential under numerous Virginia code sections–grand jury proceedings, juvenile records etc. 

To its credit, however, the Virginia Supreme Court committee emphasized that public access to court records is important in ensuring the integrity of the judicial process.  The committee pointed out that there are many court opinions (State and Federal) recognizing that public access to court records allows the public to monitor the conduct of judicial proceedings, providing an effective restraint on the possible abuse of judicial power.  The US Supreme Court has recognized the rights of the public to have access to court proceedings which “allows the citizenry to monitor the functioning of our courts, thereby insuring quality, honesty, and respect for our legal system.” 

While the Virginia Supreme Court proposed rule amendments are in draft, all of us must monitor the restrictions that may be applied to public access to court records.  Private investigators often need to search court records in relation to an investigation.  As stated in a previous post, there must be a way to identify the person in the court record.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in Investigations, PIAVA, private investigations, Public Records, Research | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »