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Online access to state court records comes under scrutiny

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    NMU         NEW YORK         Secret Courts         Apr 30, 2002    

Online access to state court records comes under scrutiny

  • The state high court commissioned a panel, led by noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, to examine privacy concerns raised as a result of court files being made available online.

The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, announced on April 24 the creation of a commission that will weigh the costs and benefits of having court records posted on the Internet.

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, whose past clients include The New York Times, CNN and other major news organizations, will chair the 22-member Commission on Public Access to Court Records.

The panel was appointed in response to the posting of court dates and selected orders and decisions on the state’s Office of Court Administration Web site. This has caused some to question the dangers such access poses to people’s privacy as more and more court documents become accessible to a worldwide audience via the Internet.

“We see the whole world changing over the next decade,” the New York Law Journal quoted Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman as saying. “There will be a totally new level of openness, but we don’t want to do that willy nilly.”

Abrams told the Journal that the commission will take into account a wide array of opinions after questioning judges, members of the media and others followed by public hearings.

New York’s state courts started placing decisions online two years ago. Eventually, all of the state’s 62 counties began putting some information about civil cases on the Web.

While no firm date has been set, the commission is expected to release its report by next year.

KC


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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