Task force debates putting pre-conviction filings online

The Indiana Supreme Court’s Advisory Task Force on Remote Access to and Privacy of Electronic Court Records voted Friday to recommend attorneys and clients have access online to all criminal case filings they are party to after the conviction has been entered, but did not set a date for when that would be available.

The task force also voted to allow online access to motions for all civil collection, civil tort, mortgage foreclosure, civil plenary and small claims court orders. At a previous meeting, the task force voted to put all appellate pleadings and motions online starting July 1, but this vote covers motions in all cases, including trial courts, in those categories. There was also no date set for when all motions would be put online.

Earlier Friday, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush sent out a letter to all attorneys in Indiana reminding them that filings in appellate courts would need to be e-filed beginning July 1, and also encouraging them to view the timeline at courts.in.gov/efile to see when voluntary e-filing and mandatory e-filing will be required in all of Indiana’s counties. The goal is for all the entire state to be e-filing all cases by the end of 2018.

The task force decided that providing online access to attorneys and clients involved in criminal proceedings once the conviction has been filed was not a problem for anyone and would indeed make things a lot easier for both parties. A registration process would need to be created.

The results of an online access survey were discussed, which polled attorneys about which categories of cases they would not mind being online. Thirty categories, including all criminal cases, were listed as a general consensus for those orders being online, but only the five orders mentioned above were voted on and approved. Other categories will be voted on at the next two meetings, July 29 and Sept. 3.

There was a lot of debate over whether to put pre-conviction filings in criminal cases online, with many members giving the pros and cons. Hoosier State Press Association Executive Director and General Counsel Steve Key encouraged transparency, and Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Fred Cate said this was “the heart of the matter” on making things public. However, members also expressed concern, noting those filings could be used for nefarious means and would damage the reputation of someone forever if a person’s name appeared online in pre-conviction filings and he or she wasn’t convicted of a crime. There were also concerns about motions to suppress and how that would work.

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