Court reverses secrecy policy adopted at request of defendants’ lawyers
CALIFORNIA–The Alameda County Superior Court reversed a policy in mid-November that severely restricted access to court records by the media and members of the public. The closure in early November of documents that had been open to the public included indices of both active and inactive criminal cases, as well as investigation and police reports which were within court files.
The court administrators reopened the indexes after acknowledging they were public records. However the court is still attempting to develop a way of indexing that would limit access to prisoner identification numbers, case status and resolution of cases.
The policy of secrecy was pushed by the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, which advocates greater privacy of defendants’ court records.
In support of its goal, Legal Aid cited a 1994 California appeals case which held that the use of court data by private citizens to produce “rap sheets” on individuals was a violation of privacy law. The court administrators then decided to withhold all records which might provide identifying information. (Media Counsel: John Carne, Oakland)