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Panel recommends electronic access to court records — with limits

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Secret Courts         Aug 17, 2001    

Panel recommends electronic access to court records — with limits

  • Internet access for civil case files should match courthouse access, the panel said, but litigants should redact most personal identifiers in records.

A committee of federal judges released a report on Aug. 15 recommending that civil court files be available via the Internet to the same extent as at the courthouse. The committee also recommended that bankruptcy files be similarly available. However, the judges suggested that “personal identifiers,” such as social security numbers and birth dates, be redacted from online records.

The committee further recommended that, at this time, criminal records should not be made available via the Internet, but the panel also recommended that the policy be reviewed within two years.

The committee noted that the federal courts generally “are not required to provide electronic access to case files (assuming that a paper file is maintained), and these recommendations do not create any entitlement to such access.” However, the committee suggested that “the public should share in the benefits of information technology, including more efficient access to court case files.”

The committee’s recommendations will be considered by the full Judicial Conference of the United States when it meets on Sept. 11. The policy, if adopted, will apply uniformly to all federal courts.

In March, media groups, such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, urged the judicial committee to make all court records available via the Internet to the same extent they are available at the courthouse.

(Report on Privacy and Public Access to Electronic Case Files) AG

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© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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