Oklahoma Curtails Online Access to Court Records

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.

According to the order signed by Chief Justice James Winchester and four other justices, "individual pleadings and other recorded documents filed of record in state court actions shall not be publicly displayed on the Internet." The order, released on March 11, describes the new rules as an effort to balance the rights of privacy of individuals and public access.

"What I disagree with is the instantaneous restriction of public access to current public court documents on line," Justice Yvonne Kaugerin wrote in a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part from the new rules. Kauger went on to note:

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. . . . [A]s 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.

The Norman Transcript has a bit more on the new rules here.

Last updated on March 14th, 2008

Order Withdrawn

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has withdrawn its order restricting public access to court records.

The decision Tuesday came after complaints from lawyers, free-speech advocates, law enforcement, court clerks, journalists and companies that perform background checks that the restrictions, intended to prevent identity theft, were too far reaching.

The new rules, which were to take effect June 10, would have required removal of personal information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and other data from court filings. The rules also would have prohibited the posting of court pleadings on the Internet.

The Supreme Court, in a brief statement from the office of Chief Justice James R. Winchester, said it was withdrawing the order to allow time for further study and consideration of the issue.

Great news

This is great news, Don. Thanks for alerting us to this. If you have a link to Justice Winchester's statement, please post it. If I can find it, I'll add it here.

   
 
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