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Ohio debates how complete access to online court records should be

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  1. Court Access
Ohio's state Supreme Court is grappling with the same privacy and transparency dilemma the federal courts dealt with several years ago,…

Ohio’s state Supreme Court is grappling with the same privacy and transparency dilemma the federal courts dealt with several years ago, deciding what personal information should appear in public records posted on court Web sites. 

The U.S. Judicial Conference built and then in 2003 revamped its policy on electronic access redacting from its online records system — PACER — chunks of identifying information like juvenile records, financial account numbers and Social Security numbers. (Federal juror names were pulled from the public domain, too — at least during a trial.)

In Ohio, it seems this process, now six years old, has grown from a debate about names and numbers to one about records, broadly. According to The (Toledo) Blade, the state Supreme Court wants more public comments on its latest proposal, which would redact not only Social Security numbers and bank accounts but also names of children who’ve been crime victims or lived in shelters, among other things.

The Blade says its lawyers and other media groups are pushing the court not to block off entire categories of information, but to instead leave it up to a judge decide what to redact from a given case.