Online court records panel close to making its recommendations Online court records panel close to making its recommendations June 15, 2005 Regular News For more than a year, the Florida Supreme Court Committee on Privacy and Court Records has grappled with how to make public court records available on the Internet, while dealing with the competing values of privacy and openness.Now Jon Mills, chair of the committee, wants to hear from you.He said he will consider all input until the report is finalized during a June 22 meeting at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando. The meeting will be held in the Judicial Conference Room from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.A majority of the committee voted to publish nonconfidential court records on the Internet—except, for now, records in juvenile, family, and probate cases. Some members of the committee remain in strong disagreement.Especially controversial is a recommendation that lawyers would have new responsibilities under proposed Rule 2.051, Public Access to Judicial Branch Records. Lawyers would be expected to keep confidential information out of court files, certify that it has been done, and pay the price if it hasn’t been.“There is unanimity that this openness be balanced with a cautious set of policies designed to protect privacy. Before records can be released electronically, a number of precautionary measures must be taken by lawyers, clerks of court, and judges to protect confidential information and to prevent unnecessary information from coming into court files to begin with.. . . ,” Mills wrote in an op-ed piece published in the May 31 St. Petersburg Times. “Florida is an open state, but also a state that recognizes privacy rights in our constitution. The committee’s proposals are an effort to strike a balance. The committee also recognizes that the problem of information privacy extends far beyond policies about court records. The legislative branches of state and federal government—the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress—have significant power to protect citizens and to set limits on the commercial exchange of personal information.“If citizens agree or disagree, they must make their voices heard.” Direct written comments to Jon Mills, Committee on Privacy and Court Records, Supreme Court of Florida, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee, 32399-1900; or by e-mail at [email protected] The committee’s draft report and recommendations are available on the Florida Supreme Court Web site at www.flcourts.org. See also the May 15 issue of The Florida Bar News (available on the Bar’s Web site at floridabar.org) for a more in-depth look at the issue.