DATE: June 18, 2004                                             Contact: Laura Kiernan
                                                                               Court Public Information Officer
                                                                                603-271-2646 ext 359

 

COURT TASK FORCE LAUNCHES STUDY OF
 ACCESS TO ELECTRONIC RECORDS

 CONCORD–A New Hampshire Supreme Court task force will convene June 21 to begin development of policies that will govern electronic access to state court records.

“We intend to hear all sides of this very complex issue so that we can arrive at a policy that is in the best interest of the citizens of New Hampshire while also recognizing the importance of public access to court records,” Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. said.

 Alan Carlson, president of the California-based Justice Management Institute and a nationally recognized expert on issues raised by electronic access to court records, will address the opening session Monday.

 The  “Task Force on Access to Court Records”  includes a wide variety of members with differing perspectives on numerous issues, including public access, privacy, and government accountability that will be raised as new  technology makes court records instantly accessible without ever having to visit a courthouse to look at a paper file.

 The members represent the judicial branch, the legislature, executive branch agencies, the media, business interests, victims’ advocates, law enforcement, the legal community and the general public. In a letter to task force members, Broderick said the court wanted to encourage discussion of differing views on these issues, which now confront court systems around the country as their electronic storage capabilities have advanced.

 “Only by inviting comment from people with different perspectives will we be sure the Court has the benefit of a complete and public discussion of these important issues,” Broderick said. Court officials expect it will take at least a year before the committee makes its recommendations to the Supreme Court justices.

 The Task Force will be chaired by Superior Court Associate Justice Larry M. Smukler, the chairman of the Court Technology Committee. Smukler presided at the first trial in New Hampshire in which documents in four consolidated cases were filed over the Internet and available to the public during the course of the litigation through a website maintained by the parties.

 “I look forward to working with the task force, and its drafting  committee, to develop recommendations for the Supreme Court that will guide the judicial branch on critical policy issues involving public access to court records,” Smukler said.

 In April, the Judicial Branch signed a $1.9 million contract with Tyler Technologies of Dallas, Texas for a state of the art case management system which the Chief Justice described as a “giant step forward in our effort to modernize our court system.”  The new “Odyssey” system, which court officials say will take at least two years to install statewide, provides a capacity for electronic storage that will allow for enhanced public access to records and electronic filing of court documents. 

 “As we move toward electronic storage, it will be technically possible at any time of day or night to review public court records quickly, economically, and anonymously,” Broderick said in his letter to task force members.

 “This technical capacity opens new opportunities for access to public records and raises important policy issues concerning expectations of privacy and the accountability of court officials,” Broderick said.

 The task force will meet Monday, June 21, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon  at the Administrative Office of the Courts, Two Noble Drive, Concord.

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