A controversial proposal that urged sealing records of certain past criminal convictions and arrests has been pulled from the agenda of the American Bar Association’s policy-making session today in San Francisco, reports Legal Times. The proposal of the ABA’s Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions was aimed at making it easier for convicted people who have served their time, and those whose arrests never led to a conviction, to gain employment and housing without the stigma of past records that can be found in online databases and elsewhere. Journalism organizations protested that the proposal would seal from the public a significant segment of public records that are important in holding law enforcement agencies accountable for past arrests and investigations. Business groups also voiced opposition, because they seek this same information in connection with background checks for employment and housing.
“For now we threw in the towel,” panel chairman Stephen Saltzburg, law professor at George Washingtin University, told the Associated Press. “People agree there’s a problem. Everyone agrees there’s unfairness. But we don’t have a solution that gets saying that’s one we can all support.” Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who led the media group objecting to the proposal, applauded its withdrawal, but said it should never have got as far as it did. She said media groups had tried to discuss the proposal with the commission, but “we were written off as whining media people.” It was not until business groups also raised red flags that the commission paid attention, she said. “There is a real public interest in this information.”