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New York court records to go online

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New York court records to go online

  • A newly announced policy will place New York among the leaders in electronic access to the courts.

Feb. 27, 2004 — In welcome news to open-court advocates, the New York state court system announced Wednesday that it will start making all but a few court records available over the Internet.

The announcement, by Chief Judge Judith Kaye, was accompanied by the release of a 33-page report from a commission that studied the issue. The report recommended an aggressive new policy of making court records available over the Internet to the same extent as at the courthouse.

With more than 3 million cases filed every year, New York has the nation’s second-largest court system, behind California. Consequently, it will be a key testing ground for electronic access.

“We’re reassured that the courts of New York state have seen fit to continue their tradition of liberal access to court records,” said Diane Kennedy, president of the New York Newspaper Publishers Association.

Under the new program, which will be phased in over five years, any record filed with a New York court will be presumptively available over the Internet, either for free or at a nominal fee.

To minimize concerns of privacy and identity theft, some information will be removed. Social Security numbers, financial account and credit card numbers, birth dates, and names of minor children will be excluded. It will be the responsibility of the parties filing such records, not the court, to remove such information from both the electronic and paper versions of their filings.

In addition, certain categories of cases — such as family-law actions or lawsuits sealed by a judge’s order — will not be posted on the Internet. Such records are not available at the courthouse, either.

The policy “wisely balances the sometimes competing interests of open access and privacy,” said New York’s chief administrative judge, Jonathan Lippman, in a press release. “Case information already deemed public according to current laws will not be viewed as any less public for the purposes of accessibility on the Internet.”

The 22-member commission was chaired by prominent First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams and included a number of other media representatives, including former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld and attorneys for The Tribune Company and McGraw-Hill.

JM

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