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Appellate court reverses ban on personal portable scanners

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Appellate court reverses ban on personal portable scanners

  • Records in clerk of court offices are easier to copy under a court ruling that clerks can no longer bar the use of portable scanners at their discretion.

Dec. 2, 2004 — Reporters and others who want to scan court records in Louisiana will have an easier time doing so after the state Court of Appeal (2nd Cir.) in Shreveport overturned a lower court ruling in November that gave clerks of court the prerogative to ban portable scanners to obtain court documents.

The court ruled that although “installation” or “placement” of scanners had been banned, that did not necessarily mean that handheld scanners were not permissible. The court wrote that if the intent was to prevent people from using scanners then the law would have banned the “use” of scanners instead of “installation” or “placement.” Bringing one’s own handheld scanner does not constitute installation or placement, according to the ruling.

A lower court had ruled that when an employee of First Commerce Title Co. brought his own portable scanner, it constituted a “placement or installation” of privately owned equipment, as well as constituting the use of “other such imaging devices” which the clerk would have a right to ban under state law.

The case began in August 2001 when James W. Martin, the clerk of court in Arcadia, La., refused to allow an employee of First Commerce to use a portable scanner to copy court documents. Martin told the individual that the sheriff’s deputy would escort him out of the facility if he attempted to use the device again.

The same employee returned to the office two weeks later, and again attempted to use the scanner. He was threatened with physical removal a second time. First Commerce President David Touchstone filed a complaint with the clerk.

Following Touchstone’s letter, Martin stood by his ban of the portable scanner, denied ever threatening to have the employee arrested and offered to make copies of documents for 50 cents per page. First Commerce then filed a petition in November 2001 seeking permission to use portable scanners in the clerk’s office without being subject to fees. The Second Judicial District Court in the Parish of Bienville previously ruled in favor of Martin.

(First Commerce Title Company, Inc. v. Martin) EF

© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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