TO: Joint Procedure Committee
FROM: Mike Hagburg
DATE: September 9, 2011
RE: Rule 41, N.D.Sup.Ct.Admin.R., Access to Court Records
The Committee approved proposed amendments to Rule 41 at the April 2011 meeting. These amendments are now before the Supreme Court as part of the Committee's annual rules package. A copy of the rule, as amended by the Committee, is attached.
In April, the Committee also decided that the Odyssey Operations Group should be contacted regarding development of a policy and procedure to categorically remove from Internet display records of criminal dismissals and acquittals, records of criminal actions beyond the document retention period, and records related to motions for restraining or protection orders that were requested but never granted.
A letter on this issue was sent to the Odyssey Operations Group on July 21. Because the Group has now been disbanded, the Court Technology Committee addressed the letter at its August 19 meeting. Staff attended the meeting and explained the Committee's proposal. Attorney Jack McDonald also attended the meeting representing the North Dakota Newspaper Association and explained its objections to the proposal.
Mr. McDonald said that the only criminal records displayed on the Internet at the online District Court Search site are docket entries. He said that it is important for the public to have access to basic docket information about criminal proceedings because this is an important part of the public court record. Mr. McDonald also provided information on two Iowa cases in which courts had decided against expunging information about criminal cases decided in favor of the defendant. This information is attached.
The Court Technology Committee decided that it was opposed to a policy of categorically removing records from Internet display. It also decided it was opposed to the Committee's proposed amendments to Rule 41 and that it would send a comment to the Court expressing its objections. Mr. McDonald said that the NDNA would also be expressing its objections to the proposed amendments to Rule 41.
Members of the Court Technology Committee admitted that the display of criminal record information on the District Court Search site could be better and said they would continue to work to improve the display so that information about the disposition of criminal cases would be up front and clear.