In a time when many courts are working with advances in technology to provide public access to public court records online, Oklahoma has dealt a major blow to such progress with a new rule cutting off public access to court records currently available online. When the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s new rules go into effect June 10, pleadings and other public court filings will only be accessible in the hard copies of the files.
The court cites a need to balance individuals’ privacy rights as its rationale for the new rule. Strange, considering the records are public documents and mechanisms to protect private and sensitive information in files — through protective orders or other means to seal records — have always served that need.
Let’s hope states such as New Jersey, which is currently working on updating its court access rules, continue to think progressively and provide the public with greater access and ease with which to view records and stay far away from the terrible philosophy in Oklahoma.