Maine Chief justice: Public will be able to access court documents online for a fee

The judiciary Thursday announced that the public would be able to access some court documents online once the $15 million electronic case filing system is implemented over the next few years, but that it would not be free. Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley said that the system would be similar to the federal judiciary’s Public Access…

More

Open government means open courts: How the Reporters Committee is working to shine a light on the judicial system

Earlier this month, in celebration of Sunshine Week, we turned our attention to highlighting the value of transparency and public information to our communities, both large and small. However, year-round we must continue to remember the importance of advocating for transparency and work to protect the rights of journalists who are shining a light into…

More

If Fla. Gov. Rick Scott signs this bill, 2.7 million criminal records vanish from public view

More than 2.7 million criminal records will be sealed and the arrest records of hundreds of thousands of people will be concealed under a bill heading to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

An open records advocacy group is sounding the alarm and calling for Scott to veto the bill, warning it could hide the backgrounds of dangerous people.

More

Vermont reverses course on concealing lawsuits, following complaint by national news service

Following a complaint by a national legal news service, the state of Vermont issued an emergency order effective Monday directing court clerks to make public all lawsuits as soon as they are filed.

Previously, state court rules required clerks to keep lawsuits secret until defendants had been served — a violation of the public's First Amendment right to access to court records, according to a federal case brought against Vermont by Courthouse News Service.

More

Virginia Supreme Court hears argument in newspaper’s access to records case

The Daily Press took its battle with the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Virginia Supreme Court over access to a statewide court records database to the justices of the state Supreme Court on Friday.

The newspaper is seeking the data under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to determine whether race plays a part in plea bargains in the state’s circuit courts. The position of the OES is that each of the state’s clerks — not the OES — is the custodian of the records.

More

Wisconsin panel votes to purge cases from state online court database

Wisconsin's courts director is considering removing records of criminal cases that ended in dismissal or acquittals from the state's popular online courts database within months, rather than decades, out of concern that people are abusing the information.

More

Texas clerks look to derail web-based public access to court records

Texas court clerks are resisting a state proposal they say would strip them of their constitutional authority by making court documents available online for easy public access.

The statewide database, re:SearchTX, holds records from all 254 counties and is backed by the state’s Supreme Court. It currently is used by judges and soon will be available to attorneys and the public — who could search for civil court records and review them, all from the comfort of home.

More

CFOIC President: Why Colorado needs a uniform standard for sealing criminal court records

Colorado has had its share of high-profile criminal cases.

The aborted rape prosecution of NBA star Kobe Bryant. The capital trial of Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes. The preliminary hearing for the kidnapper and killer of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway. The pending prosecution of the admitted Planned Parenthood shooter, Robert Lewis Dear.

More

CA: Judge jails judicial reform advocate who discussed divorce online

In a decision First Amendment experts have dubbed “outrageous,” a Contra Costa Superior Court judge jailed a San Ramon man for writing about his divorce on the internet — even though his writings were based on material publicly available in court files.

The judge, Bruce C. Mills, insisted in his decision that “matters that are put into court pleadings and brought up in oral argument before the court do not become public thereby” — a position that lawyers say fundamentally misunderstands the nature of court records.

More