Dissenters file their own reports

first_imgThe membership of the Supreme Court Committee on Privacy and Court Records includes: • Chair Jon Mills, dean emeritus of the University of Florida Levin School of Law • Kristin Adamson, Tallahassee lawyer • Andrew Z. Adkins, director of Legal Technology Institute, UF, Gainesville • 15th Circuit Judge Edward Fine, West Palm Beach • University of Miami College of Law Professor A. Michael Froomkin, Coral Gables • Clerk of Court Lydia Gardner, Orlando • Supreme Court Clerk Thomas D. Hall • Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Jacqueline Griffin • Jon Kaney, Jr., Ormond Beach, lawyer representing First Amendment Foundation • 11th Circuit Judge Judith L. Kreeger • Clerk of Court Barbara T. Scott, Punta Gorda • First Circuit Judge Kim A. Skievask i, Pensacola • Bay County Judge Elijah Smiley, Panama City • 12th Circuit Court Administrator Walt Smith, Sarasota • Larry Turner, a former Gainesville judge now in private practice ( Justice R. Fred Lewis served as liaison to the Supreme Court) September 1, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News Dissenters file their own reportscenter_img Dissenters file their own reports Some fear online access, clerks worry about their independence Jan Pudlow Senior Editor Fifth District Court of Appeal Judge Jacqueline Griffin was the leader of the naysayers, warning that public Internet access to court records is a “misguided goal” that will provide criminals and terrorists with a “Sears catalogue of personal histories to chose from.”And two court clerk members of the Supreme Court Committee on Privacy and Court Records — Charlotte County Clerk of Court Barbara T. Scott and Orange County Clerk of Court Lydia Gardner — agreed access to court records is the right of the public, whether over the Internet or at the courthouse, but they could not support the majority report because of what they consider clerks’ compromised independence and added liability in their role to keep confidential information out of the public record.In her eight-page minority report, Judge Griffin — joined by 11th Circuit Judge Judith Kreeger, 12th Circuit Court Administrator Walt Smith, and Tallahassee lawyer Kristin Adamson — pointed out that no one on the committee argued the courts have a duty to post court records online, only that the public access is more convenient.“If public access is good, the theory goes, then the maximum possible public access must be the maximum public good. Why should citizens be required to go to the courthouse to examine court records when technology will permit them to examine them from the comforts of their own living room? The answer, we believe, is that once the constitutional requirement that the records be open to public inspection is met, the courts must weigh the benefits of more convenient access. If this is done, it is clear that remote electronic access to images of court records should not be allowed.”Obvious problems, Griffin said, are personal and financial information in personal injury and criminal cases available for anyone to see at any time.“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the majority report is that it discounts the peril in which court users are placed when the courts turn over this private information to ready access by the public,” Griffin wrote. “Identity theft is the fastest growing and most pervasive crime in the United States, and court records offer the most detailed, most organized, and most wide-ranging reservoir of personal facts imaginable.. . . “Criminals or terrorists seeking cover will have a virtual Sears catalogue of personal histories to choose from. This risk burdens still further the citizen’s use of the courts. Given the precautions individuals are already taking or urged to take to protect themselves from identify theft, it is obvious that some who might need or wish to use the court will simply not take the risk.”In the clerks’ 16-page minority report, Scott and Gardner wrote: “Clerks are in agreement with the Privacy Committee’s finding that remote electronic access to court records brings efficiencies to the court not before encountered and access should be a goal. However, based on the current state of the law, the clerks cannot come to terms with the position set forth by the committee that the Supreme Court has exclusive authority over all aspects of court records.. . . “We believe clerks cannot overemphasize the necessity of maintaining independence in our administrative and ministerial functions in order to protect the integrity of the court system.. . . Nonetheless, the clerk has complete responsibility for maintaining the confidentiality of confidential reports. More properly, if the Privacy Committee is to suggest that the Florida Supreme Court assumes complete control over all aspects of judicial records in the custody of the clerk, the committee should similarly consider a recommendation to extend immunity to the clerk, rather than articulating a specific basis of liability for the clerk.”Here’s who served on the panel last_img