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N.J. Supreme Court committee proposes online access to court records

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  1. Libel and Privacy
Justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court heard testimony last week regarding a proposal to expand access to judicial documents.…

Justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court heard testimony last week regarding a proposal to expand access to judicial documents. If implemented, the new rule would allow Internet publication of most records now available only at the courthouse.

The proposal follows the release of a two-year study conducted by the Supreme Court Special Committee on Public Access to Court Records. The committee, lead by Associate Justice Barry T. Albin, concluded that transparency in proceedings will increase public confidence in the court system.              

Prior to the presentation to the justices, the committee collected public comment from various opponents and supporters of the measure, including The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which submitted a comment in support of the new rule.

Others, such as divorce attorney John Paone, are concerned about possible invasions of privacy or misuse of available data. Paone said he is concerned that children of divorced parents may inadvertently find sensitive information on the Internet. “These records should be presumptively closed,” he said.

To avoid these problems, the rules would not allow publication of some records “deemed necessary to protect children and vulnerable members of the public,” as well as those that might pose a risk to public safety or negatively impact essential court functions, according to the report.  

The Supreme Court will decide whether the new rule will be implemented at its discretion, according to spokeswoman Winnie Comfort.