New rules for online court records

Friday, March 14th 2008, 6:47 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

New rules from the Oklahoma Supreme Court would limit access to court documents online. Those rules have some people arguing the point at which freedom of the press intrudes on privacy and personal safety.

The Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN) has a Web site that allows you to log on and find out any information about whatever happens in court.

The new rules would prevent user access to information described as a personal identifier, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, banking statements and medical records.

There are concerns the rule was implemented to limit media access, but Chief Justice James Winchester insists that is not the case.

"We're very sensitive to the press and we feel like they do an excellent job," Winchester said. "We'd like to give you as much information as we can at your computers so we don't have to go to the courthouse."

That means upcoming court appearances, hearings, trials, rulings, verdicts and suspect information will remain easily accessible. The Chief Justice said this information cannot be used for identity theft, nor can it be used to track down a victim for questionable purposes.

"What I'm concerned about is if that shows up on the internet and someone who's not as responsible goes to find that individual," Winchester said.

Justice Winchester made the decision this week after receiving a letter from the director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth. The Director was concerned after seeing information on OSCN about a 14-year-old murder suspect whose mental health and sexual abuse history was available on OSCN.

Oklahoma County Court Clerk Patricia Presley agrees that information should be restricted. She is worried about enforcing the new law because she lacks the staff.

"It would be impossible for any court clerk to have to approve every court record file to see if any of that information was in there," Presley said.

Justice Winchester admits there are still several details that need to be worked out.

"I'm confident that working together we can come up with that in Oklahoma and meet that expectation for everyone," Winchester said.

Justice Winchester said he plans to seek input from the media and court clerks as this new rule moves closer to implementation.

The new rule goes into effect June 10.