The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on Wednesday applauded the Maryland judiciary’s action Tuesday to abandoned a proposal to restrict electronic access to court records and to impose limitations on public access to records kept at the courthouse.
The Committee on Public Access to Court Information announced the proposed plan last month and solicited public comment. Its plan would have limited dial-up access to the court’s electronic records to lawyers, police, and government agencies. It would have required anyone seeking court records to state their name and affiliation and to prove that they had a “legitimate” reason to look at court records. The decision to permit or deny access would have been left solely to the record custodian’s discretion. The plan would have also limited to 10 the number of records any person could see in one day.
The Committee abandoned the plan due to extensive opposition. The Associated Press reported that more than160 people wrote to oppose the rules, including the Reporters Committee and the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association. Other opponents included landlords, employers, childcare professionals, investigators, and ordinary citizens. Dozens of citizens also spoke out to oppose the proposed rules at a hearing on December 13.
“Often the press stands alone in advocating the public’s right to know what its courts are up to,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “It was refreshing and encouraging to see citizens who use public records speak out against this proposal. The public is indebted to them.”
The Comments filed by the Reporters Committee can be found on the Reporters Committee’s web site at: https://www.rcfp.org