Florida inched closer this week to making court records available to the public online while keeping confidential documents secret, reports the Palm Beach Post. But a final rule about electronic filing of court records is still on the horizon. The state supreme court had been expected to issue the rule after hearing from attorneys for the media and for prosecutors during oral arguments Wednesday. Instead, the justices will issue another proposed rule and solicit a new round of public comment before creating a final rule.
“We want to make sure that the public has access, but we also want to make sure that confidential matters remain confidential,” Chief Justice Peggy Quince said. Part of the problem lies in the 1,006 exemptions to the state’s public records law and how to keep that information private once it’s in a court file and published online. In the future, anyone filing court papers will have a checklist of 19 exemptions to the public records laws they can use to notify court clerks if the documents contain secret information. The clerks will have to double-check the filings. The biggest unresolved issue concerns sealing records to protect defendants who become confidential informants.