Since the earliest organised societies , with taxation , disputes, and so on, records of some sort have been needed. In ancient Babylon records were kept in cuneiform writing on clay tablets. In the Inca empire of South America , which did not have writing, records were kept via an elaborate form of knots in cords, quipu , whose meaning has been lost. In Western Europe in the Late Middle Ages public records included census records as well as records of birth, death, and marriage; an example is the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror. Although public records are records of public business, they are not necessarily available without restriction, although Freedom of Information legislation FOI that has been gradually introduced in many jurisdictions since the s has made access easier.
Each government has policies and regulations that govern the availability of information contained in public records. A common restriction is that data about a person is not normally available to others; for example, the California Public Records Act PRA states that "except for certain explicit exceptions, personal information maintained about an individual may not be disclosed without the person's consent". In the United Kingdom, Cabinet papers were subject to the thirty-year rule : until the introduction of FOI legislation, Cabinet papers were not available for thirty years; some information could be withheld for longer.
As of [update] the rule still applies to some information, such as minutes of Cabinet meetings. Some companies provide access, for a fee, to many public records available on the Internet. Many of them specialize in particular types of information, while some offer access to different types of record, typically to professionals in various fields.
Some companies sell software with a promise of unlimited access to public records, but may provide nothing more than basic information on how to access already available and generally free public websites. Each year news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested groups sponsor "Sunshine Week. In many states, state legislatures are often exempt from public-records laws that apply to state executive officials and local officials. In , the Associated Press made a request for the emails and daily schedules of state legislative leaders speakers of state Houses and presidents of state Senates in all 50 states; a majority denied the request.
Of particular significance was the evolution of the common-law right "to access court records to inspect and to copy". The expectation inherent in the common law right to access court records is that any person may come to the office of the clerk of the court during business hours and request to inspect court records, with almost instantaneous access. Such right is a central safeguard of the integrity of the courts. Any decision to conceal court records requires a sealing order.
The right to access court records is also central to liberty: There is no conceivable way to exercise the Habeas Corpus right, deemed by the late Justice Brennan  as "the cornerstone" of the United States Constitution, absent access to court records as public records. In the United States the common law right to "access court records to inspect and to copy" was reaffirmed by the U.
Supreme Court in Nixon v Warner Communications, Inc , where the court found various parts of the right to access court records as inherent to the First, Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Due to freedom of information and access, public citizens are granted insight to the court system and other government agencies. Public opinion and interest may at times impact the privacy and impartiality of court proceedings and court records, however, these freedoms are incredibly valuable.
Public access to records and proceedings holds the courts accountable by ensuring any errors, oversights, and injustices are perfectly transparent. Ultimately, this freedom helps elevate our justice system to the highest standard of accuracy and integrity. Don't see your city listed? Click the button below to see all our locations. View All Locations.
Don't have your notice ready? No problem. Click here to fill out an online scheduling form. Please use this form if your deposition is scheduled more than 48 hours in advance. Client Login Reporter Login. Get in touch: Freedom of Information Both the federal and state governments determine public access to government files such as court records.
Court Records Court records fall under the umbrella of information that is generally available for public inspection.
They should be held accountable when they misuse personal information. Teaching and practicing tolerance. This is my "tolerance" recommendation, and is perhaps in the realm of the "impossible dream. We must transform how our society judges individuals - not an easy task. As I discussed earlier, we appear to be forgetting the older social value of "societal forgiveness.
After all, one person's "black mark" is another's life lesson learned the hard way. How to accomplish such a societal transformation is hard to envision, especially at a time when we are increasingly a "get-even," litigious society. For starters, schools and colleges must teach about tolerance and responsible information-handling practices in business and ethics classes.
And employers must be willing to look beyond many of the so-called negative items found in background checks in their hiring decisions. I realize that the latter is especially difficult for companies to do given the likelihood of facing negligent hiring lawsuits if bad decisions are made.
The "go slow" approach. Finally, courts and government agencies must take a "go slow" approach to posting public records on the Internet. For example, as discussed earlier, the full texts of court records should not be posted online until flexible and effective redaction technology is available, and until court systems have adopted rules that support sealing the most sensitive information. Government agencies must examine the public policy objectives they are attempting to accomplish by making records available on the Internet - the prime one being government accountability.
If there are ways to limit the amount of personal information provided online without undermining the public policy objectives of providing access, then such approaches should be considered. I began this presentation by listing several negative consequences to individuals and to society when public records containing personally identifiable information are widely available on the Internet. I strongly believe that unless courts, government agencies and industry groups explore and adopt many of the recommendations presented here, there will be serious harm to many individuals and to society.
That is why the "go slow" approach is the best way to proceed at this time - so that technologies, policies and societal institutions can be allowed to evolve at the appropriate rate to protect privacy while at the same time as promoting the benefits of electronic access. This presentation is a work in progress. I welcome your suggestions on ways to reduce the harmful effects of public records being published on the Internet, while at the same time upholding the public policy purpose of government accountability.
I am grateful to the following individuals for reviewing this paper and offering suggestions. The final conclusions are my own. The first thing you can do is to freeze your credit. Property tax assessor files. Typical records contain name of owner, description of property, and the assessed value for taxation purposes.
- birth certificate form for british columbia residents.
- Outline of Nebraska Public Records Statutes | Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson.
- removal from texas sex offenders list!
- free back ground check for warrents?
- Outline of Nebraska Public Records Statutes.
- See Public Records? Governments Are Making It Harder..
- finance check on a car.
Some systems even provide blueprints of the property. Motor vehicle records - registration, licensing, and driver history information varies by state. Registered voter files restricted in some states. Professional and business licenses. Court files: Case indexes Tax liens and judgments Bankruptcy files Criminal arrest and conviction records, and warrants Civil court recordings. These are commonly available in divorce decrees, child custody cases, and bankruptcy filings. But when account numbers, personal identifiers, and dates of birth are accessible on the Internet, they could be used to commit financial fraud.
Introduction - Factual Research and Public Records - Research Guides at Harvard Library
The crime of identity theft is at epidemic proportions today, fueled in part by easy access to SSNs. Family law files typically contain information about children as well as allegations - whether accurate or not -- of wrongdoing and negligence by warring spouses. When aggrieved insurance holders sue the insurance company over medical payment claims, the details of their medical conditions are likely to become part of the court record and thereby public.
It is a common tactic of companies to threaten to bring highly sensitive medical information, as well as other personal matters, into the case in order to discourage the plaintiff from proceeding. For example, in a prominent case of alleged identity theft negligence, the defendant, a credit bureau, obtained the plaintiff's gynecological records in order to attempt to show that she was mentally unbalanced and that her claims had no merit. In a dispute with a neighbor, or a business dispute, many allegations can be made that might not be true.
In employment-related matters such as sexual harassment cases, it is common for the defendant to divulge damaging allegations about the plaintiff, such as lifestyle and sexual history. In criminal cases, the statements of victims and witnesses become part of the public file. These often contain highly sensitive personal information.
Witnesses' personal safety can be at risk in some cases if their identities are revealed. Less participation in public life. Fewer individuals will choose to participate in government. There is the very real possibility that the continued growth of public records web sites and information services that compile government records from many sources will result in the chilling effect of people choosing not to take part in public life.
Court Records and Proceedings: What is Public and Why?
If the result of participation in public life is to lengthen one's electronic dossier and make more personal information available to whoever wants to obtain it, then it is likely that people will avoid those situations where personal information is gathered. A former California Secretary of State Tony Miller observed that many people do not vote because they do not want their name, address, party affiliation and other information publicly available.
That is why his office promoted legislation - now law -- to make the home address confidential. We have heard ample evidence from callers to our hotline to support his observation. Many other states also impose use restrictions on voter registration records. Justice only for the rich. Justice will only be available to those with the resources and know-how to seek private judicial proceedings. Those who can afford to hire private judges will choose this option in order to keep their personal information out of the public records generated by the traditional court system.
Only the rich will be able to safeguard their personal information in this manner. Many of those who do not have the means to hire private judges will choose not to file suit against their insurance company, for example, or their abusive employer. We may become a society in which only the rich get justice. Indeed, many say we already are.
The crime of identity theft and other types of fraud will be fueled by easy access to personal identifiers and other personal information via electronic public records. Such information includes Social Security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, and details about investments. Identity thieves use information such as SSNs and date-of-birth to obtain credit in another person's name.
They purchase goods and services in the innocent person's name and destroy their credit history when the bills go unpaid. Identity theft has a devastating effect on its victims. They are unable to obtain home loans, refinance their homes, purchase vehicles on credit, rent an apartment, even obtain employment.
Surveys show that victims must spend a great deal of time to regain their financial health. A study by the Identity Theft Resource found that typical victims spent hours to clean up their credit report. For additional surveys, see our web site at www. Identity theft is an opportunistic crime. The majority of criminals obtain the tools of their trade -- Social Security numbers, credit card account numbers, dates of birth, and mother's maiden names -- wherever they can find them, for example, by digging through trash and stealing mail. It will not take long before identity thieves realize they can find such data much more easily online via public records.
In fact, an Associated Press article in March reported that identity thieves accessed the government web site for Hamilton County Ohio to steal Social Security numbers and other personal data of hundreds of Ohio residents. A federal grand jury indicted eight individuals suspected of operating an identity theft crime ring. Individuals will experience shame and embarrassment, even discrimination, when details of their personal lives are broadcast in court records available on the Internet.
The PRC has been contacted by many individuals who have relayed such experiences. Reputations will be destroyed because of errors. There is no such thing as a perfect data base. And there are no infallible users of data files. We are already seeing the growing problem of individuals who are wrongfully linked to crimes they did not commit because of identity theft. This occurs when an imposter uses an innocent person's identifying information when apprehended by law enforcement. Another scenario is when tax liens and judgments incurred by the identity thief are listed in the name of the innocent victim.
In other situations, the background investigator obtains information on the wrong John Doe, not taking adequate care to match the information with the correct individual. Another scenario is when the information broker's files are not up to date and the investigator, perhaps an employment background check company, is not informed of acquittals or dismissals.
To read the stories of several individuals who have had difficulty obtaining employment because of problems with background checks, read the PRC's comments to the U. Personal safety risks.