Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oklahoma Supreme Court says no court docs 4 u

Wow - first limiting tax forms to online and now limited court records online - Oklahoma state government is proving to be a growing bastion of anti-convenient access to government information. And seems to be contradicting itself...

Citizen Media Law Project reports:

Earlier this week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court adopted new rules governing public access to court records, cutting off all public access to court records via the Internet and limiting public access to other information that has been available in the past.

When the rules go into effect on June 10, online access to court documents in the Oklahoma Supreme Court and district courts would be limited to court dockets only and parties will be required to redact certain personal information before submitting a filing to the court clerk....

Mind you it's not all bad - honestly some of this "Mandatory Redaction of Personal Data Identifiers" information probably shouldn't be so easily accessible online:

A. Social Security Numbers. If an individual's social security number must be included in a pleading or other document, only the last four digits of that number shall be used.

B. Taxpayer Identification Numbers. If a taxpayer identification number must be included in a pleading or other document, only the last four digits of that number shall be used.

C. Names of Minor Children. If the involvement of a minor child must be mentioned in a pleading or other document, only the initials of that child shall be used. In the alternative, the filer may refer to the child in the manner that shields the identity of the minor in the context of the proceeding (i.e., by symbol [Child A, Child B]; as Doe1, Doe2; or by the child's status in the litigation [Witness, Victim, Ward, Beneficiary]).

D. Dates of Birth. If an individual's date of birth must be included in a pleading or document, only the year shall be used.

E. Financial Account Numbers. If financial account records are relevant or mentioned in a pleading or other document, only the last four digits of these numbers shall be used.

F. Home Addresses. If a home address must be included in a pleading or other document, only the city and state shall be used.

FOI Oklahoma has links to several other articles on the topic and seem to be rather upset about this decision.

Where I do want access to information easily accessible to all - would I want the above information about me freely available online? I mean as now the amount of information that county accessors give online is creepy - I've seen some that show floor plans and photos of the houses - which sure, is great for home buyers but it's also dandy for stalkers and robbers.

So I guess I agree with the judges who issued separate opinions.

..."What I disagree with is the instantaneous restriction of public access to current public court documents on line," Justice Yvonne Kauger wrote in a separate opinion. She was joined by Justice James Edmondson.

"The court made this decision with input only from the court clerks. Others directly affected by the decision - the bar, the bench, the Legislature, the public - were not consulted," Kauger wrote.
"However, as a result of this order, not only is the court taking a giant, 30-year leap backwards to a time when the personal computer was nonexistent, the public is now paying for access to a system which is made inaccessible by the order," Kauger wrote.

Senat said the order did not explain why the court feels a lot of information previously available should now be omitted from court documents.

"This is giving far too much weight to what they consider to be sensitive or private information," he said. "Some information is certainly personal, but that doesn't make it private."

I'd be curious to know what some of our fabulous documents librarians in the state think of this.

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