States Divided Over Posting Court Files Online


State court systems around the nation remain divided over what categories of court records to post online, attendees at a national Freedom of Information Day conference were told yesterday. New York State is moving to put on Web sites the same information that is available in paper court files, Floyd Abrams, who headed a state panel studying the subject, told the conference. New York and other states, as well as the federal court system, are restricting the posting of Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers.

Federal court system staffer Robert Deyling noted that some other court systems are “looking for ways to preserve ‘practical obscurity,’ ” the U.S. Supreme Court’s characterization of public court files that are relatively hard to obtain in out-of-the-way courthouses. To the extent that criminal case files are posted online, there will be “reputational consequences” for anyone accused of a crime, said Robert Gellman, a Washington, D.C., privacy-law expert. Once a record is posted, it will be forever available and true expungement is impossible, he said.


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