Judicial Conference of the United States Considers Continued Availability of Court Records Online
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The Privacy and Public Access to Electronic Case Files Subcommittee of the Judicial Conference of the United States is considering the security and privacy implications of the availability of court case files on the Internet.

At issue is not what constitutes a public record (see "How Public are Public Records"), but how freely accessible records that are already deemed public should be.

Representatives from organizations as diverse as the National Newspaper Association, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and the United States Justice Department, as well as private citizens all presented their points of view to the subcommittee.

During the open comment period, Southern California law librarian Alan Schroeder urged the Judicial Conference to, "[s]upport full and open access to all court records, either print or electronic, [because] [t]he transient nature of info. technologies makes print version of court filings imperative until a reliable electronic standard is created and agreed upon."

The Justice Department (pending further study and an eventual final decision), advocates limiting unfettered online access to files to only individuals directly involved in cases such as lawyers or law enforcement officials, while the National Newspaper Association annd Trial Lawyers for Public Justice agreed that if a court file is available in paper form, it should also be made available in electronic form, Federal Computer Week reported recently.

"The technology is irrelevant and a red herring in this issue," Ken Allen, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Newspaper Association told Federal Computer Week.

Judge John Lungstrum, chairman of the subcommittee, told Federal Computer Week that he "hopes to present the groups’ recommendations at the Judicial Conference meeting in September."

For additional information see: http://www.privacy.uscourts.gov/AddInfo.htm.

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