August 23, 2004
Dear Chief Justice VandeWalle:
In July, 2003, you directed the Court Technology Committee to establish a committee to study the issues surrounding access to electronic records and the report "Public Access to Court Records: Guidelines for Policy Development by State Courts."
To accomplish these tasks, I have created a committee consisting of the members of the Court Technology Committee, David Boeck of the Protection and Advocacy Project, Pam Crawford of the Department of Human Services, Jim Loomis of the Credit Bureau of Fargo and Jack McDonald of the Wheeler Wolf law firm.
The committee met in January, March, June and via conference call in July of 2004 to discuss the issues presented to it. The basis of the discussions was 3 existing documents: 1) Public Access Guidelines; 2) existing administrative policy 215; and 3) existing administrative rule 41. After significant discussion and much work from the committee and Mike Hagburg, we have created the attached draft administrative rule 41 for the Supreme Court's consideration.
A summary of Mr. Hagburg's efforts is attached to this letter.
Chair, Court Technology Committee
Mr. Hagburg's Summary:
My first step in preparing the draft public access rule was to extract the "black letter" parts of the CCJ/COSCA access to court records guidelines. In other words, I took the portion of the guidelines that set out "rules" and I left out the lengthy commentary and explanation. I put the CCJ/COSCA "rules" together in the same format as a Supreme Court administrative rule. I then deleted language that did not conform to North Dakota court style. The result of this work was a draft rule.
I then integrated applicable elements of Admin. Rule 41 -- Access to Judicial Records and of Policy 215 -- Data Access and Dissemination into the draft rule. I prepared annotated copies of Admin. Rule 41 and Policy 215 that contained comments explaining why certain material in these rules was or was not integrated into the draft rule.
It turned out that many of the topics covered by Admin. Rule 41 and Policy 215 were already covered, in one way or another, by the draft rule. Because the draft rule was very lengthy, I made an effort to limit the amount of material from Admin. Rule 41 and Policy 215 that I added to the draft rule. When the draft rule contained provisions similar to those in Admin. Rule 41 and Policy 215, I generally kept the language found in the draft rule.
Still, a considerable amount of unique material from Admin. Rule 41 and Policy 215 was added to the draft rule. As a result, the draft rule was quite lengthy when the Expanded Court Technology Committee began working on it. I attended the meetings where the Committee addressed the rule so that I could understand the changes the Committee made. I the prepared new drafts of the proposed rule integrating the Committee's changes. Finally, I prepared a clean copy of the proposed rule (as approved by the Committee) as well as a legislative copy of Admin. Rule 41 reflecting the changes and additions proposed.