A task force of the Indiana Supreme Court is recommending that documents concerning the final disposition of almost all criminal cases be posted on the Internet. Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for Hoosier State Press Association is a member of the Advisory Task Force on Remote Access to and Privacy of Electronic Court Records. Chief Justice Loretta Rush is chairing the committee.
“I’ve been impressed with the general direction of the task force work,” Key said. “I believe the chief justice comes from the attitude that transparency will benefit the pubic and the judicial process.”
At its July meeting, the task force agreed that final orders/judgments for murder, felony and misdemeanor cases should become available to the public on the Internet.
The committee also recommended that petitions asking for expungement of criminal records should also be available with the understanding that if the judge granted the request, then the document would be removed from public view and access.
One area, where the committee decided against electronic access was final orders concerning juvenile delinquency cases. Key was the lone dissenting vote in that recommendation.
At a previous meeting, the task force recommended that final orders/judgments in small claims, civil plenary, mortgage foreclosure, civil tort and civil collections cases should be posted on the Internet.
At its next meeting, the task force hopes to reach consensus on estate, domestic relations, guardianship, trusts and support cases.
The timing of when these final orders and judgments will begin to be posted is not set. “It very easily could take months,” Key said.
“The IT division of the State Court Administration will have to determine how it’s going to separate out ‘final’ orders from orders issued during the course of a case, such as petitions to exclude certain documents or testimony.”
There is nothing marked as a final order.
While the trend has been toward posting final decisions on cases, Key doesn’t believe the task force will get to the questions as to what court documents created during the case will be automatically posted.
Based on task force discussions, it appears those questions probably won’t be addressed until 2017.
“Chief Justice Rush wants to ease into decisions, so the Court isn’t put into a position where its posting certain records without realizing implications that could lead it to rescind the posting of categories of court records,” said Key.
“They’d rather take smaller deliberate steps forward than two leaps ahead and then one back.”