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ABA may have dropped effort to close court records

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  1. Freedom of Information
At a discussion Tuesday on Capitol Hill of crime policies, including how to improve the odds of successful reentry for felons leaving…

At a discussion Tuesday on Capitol Hill of crime policies, including how to improve the odds of successful reentry for felons leaving prison, the American Bar Association’s attempt to seal off access to criminal records reared its head again.

But it appears the ABA has abandoned those efforts, in a win for open-government advocates. 

Margaret Love, director of the ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions, mentioned the failed attempt at a crime summit hosted by Rep. Robert Scott, chair of a House subcommittee on crime. The ABA’s voting body in 2007 rejected a resolution proposed by an ABA commission that would have urged federal, state and local governments to limit access to records of closed criminal cases where there was no conviction.

Love and other panelists spoke about the collateral consequences of criminal convictions: A criminal record — even an old one, she argued — can make it hard for people to obtain jobs, bank loans, and vote.

Love previously had been a proponent of efforts to restrict access to criminal records, which the Reporters Committee and others campaigned against. She gave no indication the ABA would try to resurrect the matter.