Sixth Annual Conference on Privacy and Public Access to Court Records
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Sixth Annual Conference on Privacy and Public Access to Court Records. Pennsylvania – Living on the Bleeding Edge November 2008. UJS TIMELINE FOR PUBLIC ACCESS POLICIES AND RELATED DEVELOPMENTS. Rule 509 Financial Records.

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Sixth Annual Conference on Privacy and Public Access to Court Records

Pennsylvania – Living on the Bleeding Edge

November 2008


Rule 509 Financial Records

  • March of 2007, a bill to amend the Right to Know Act (RTKA) is introduced.

  • RTKA for the first time would govern access to any UJS records (only financial records).

  • May 14, 2007, Court adopted Rule 509 which provides that public can access records that deal with the use of public state funds, including procurement of services, supplies and equipment.

  • Rule effective July 1, 2007.

Rule 509 Financial Records

  • February 14, 2008 Act 3 of 2008 signed by Governor which amends the RTKA which governs access to UJS financial records including county-funded local courts and fee-funded Supreme Court boards and committees.

  • Section 304 of Act provided that a “judicial agency shall provide financial records in accordance with this act or any rule or order of court providing equal or greater access to the records.”

Rule 509 Financial Records

-June 23, 2008 pursuant to the Supreme Court’s constitutional authority and Section 304, the Court amended Rule 509 (effective January 1, 2009). Rule now:

  • Covers judicial districts

  • Provides specific timeframes for appeal and decision

  • Directs AOPC to establish website for contract information (contracts more than $5K)

Paper Case Records Magisterial District Courts

  • Only statewide policy that governs paper case records is 1994 policy for courts of limited jurisdiction.

  • Internal working group consisting of judges and court staff crafted proposal published for public comment.

    -We received 31 comments including responses from the general public, media, private attorneys, data harvesters, common pleas judges, magisterial district judges, district court administrators, and governmental officials.

Paper Case Records Magisterial District Courts

  • Section 3.00 requires a requestor to complete request form.

  • Purpose to avoid confusion and for appeals.

  • Some commentators expressed concern that this provision will create an unnecessary obstacle to access and necessarily result in delays.

Paper Case Records Magisterial District Courts

  • Section 3.00 provides that a requestor can access a maximum of 10 different case records per day.

  • Some commentators suggested that this limit was too low and would interfere with the ability of the requestor to access the files. For example, if a person wanted access to 30 case records, this would require 3 trips to the court on separate days.

  • Others commentators suggested this limit was too high and would negatively impact court staff’s ability to perform assignments.

Paper Case Records Magisterial District Courts

  • Section 7.00 requirement that SSNs will not be available to the public (either by removing from court forms or requiring litigants to file confidential information sheet).

  • Some commentators wish to continue to receive SSNs from courts to use the same for matching purposes. Should last four digits be used?

  • Confidential Sheet - should policy provide sanctions when party fails to use sheet or does so incorrectly?

Expunging Information From A Case Management Systems

  • We “break” the link between the case record and individual (in cases of “full” expungements).

  • We can “reconstruct” a case when an expungement order has been erroneously issued.

  • For consumers of our bulk information, we provide an expungement list (updated periodically) so that consumers can “revise” their records as well.

  • “New” website launched by permits people to perform a “free” search of the criminal records from all 50 states.

  • Subject of NY Times Article from August 3, 2008.

  • For Pennsylvania case information, site provides that “if this is your information and it appears incorrect, please contact the source”.

  • We have received calls concerning accuracy of information (e.g. expunged information and charge errors) and how to remove information from site.

  • For Pennsylvania information, company receives case information from third party who “integrates” information from various sources.

  • We asked company to insert a link to our free web docket sheets site so an individual can compare our information.

  • Example of Commonwealth v. David Price, docket number CP-23-CR-6121-2006 (DOB 11/23/1982)

  • CriminalSearches lists 7 offenses with a disposition of guilty plea to all.

  • UJS web docket sheets lists 8 offenses with a disposition of guilty plea to one and the remaining seven are nolle prossed or withdrawn.

Federal Cases of Interest

  • Pitchler v. UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees), 2008 WL 4138410 (3rd Cir. 2008)

    • Union wanted to organize workers at Pennsylvania plant and used license plate numbers of employees’ cars to obtain employees’ names and home addresses. Then, reps visited employees at home.

    • Employees filed class action suit alleging violation of Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (union obtained employees personal information for a purpose not permitted under Act).

    • Third Circuit agreed.

Federal Cases of Interest

  • Doe v. C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 358 and 2008 WL 4190266 (3rd Cir. 2008) (two opinions)

    • Ms. Doe claims she was fired from job with defendant because she had an abortion.

    • Western District Court granted her motion to seal the entire case.

    • Local legal periodicals petitioned the 3rd Circuit to unseal the case.

    • Court declined such invitation but remanded matter back to Western District Court.

    • Legal periodicals filed cert petition with US Supreme Court.

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