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Reporters Committee asks federal judges to allow electronic access to court files

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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by other journalism groups, submitted comments to the federal judiciary on…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by other journalism groups, submitted comments to the federal judiciary on Friday regarding proposed new rules for public access to electronic federal court records.

The Reporters Committee, the Society of Professional Journalists, the D.C. Chapter of SPJ, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association urged that any new rules grant the same access to records stored electronically that is given to paper records found at a courthouse.

“For some reason, privacy advocates believe that electronic filing and storage of court records somehow transmogrifies them into private documents,” said Reporters Committee executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “If a record is available in a file cabinet at the courthouse, it should also be easily available to the public when it is filed and stored electronically — preferably via the Internet.”

The comments note the benefits of electronic access to court records by demonstrating how reporters and citizens can obtain information of vital public interest quickly and accurately. In addition, the comments note that current law already supports openness in regard to court records and a need for change has not been demonstrated. There is also evidence that the public supports such openness, the comments note.

In addition to their submission of comments, the signatories asked for the opportunity to testify at any public hearing pertaining to the issue.

The comments, which were submitted to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, can be found on the Reporters Committee website at https://www.rcfp.org/news/documents/electronic.html