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Courts open comment period on online records access plan

November 4, 2016

Trial court orders and judgments in most non-confidential civil and criminal cases will be posted and universally available online, but attorneys and parties to cases initially will have far greater access to filings than the public, according to recommendations now open for public comment.

Attorneys and parties to cases will have online access to all orders and filings in all case types except for criminal cases prior to the filing of charges, according to the recommendations.

Comments will be taken until Dec. 1 on the Report of Findings and Recommendations of the Indiana Supreme Court Advisory Task Force on Remote Access to and Privacy of Electronic Records. The court will act on the report’s recommendations after reviewing comments. An online comment form is available here.

Under the proposed recommendations, the general public would have online access to orders and final judgments in these categories of civil cases: infractions, ordinance violations, small claims, civil collection, civil tort, civil plenary, mortgage foreclosure, estate miscellaneous, estate unsupervised, miscellaneous, reciprocal support, court business and post-conviction relief.

For criminal cases, orders and final judgments will be available to the public online for all misdemeanor and felony case types except miscellaneous criminal.

The information will be available from courts using the state-supported Odyssey case management system, the public portal available at mycase.in.gov. The report provides no timeline for making the records available online, but notes implementation “would serve largely as a pilot or initial phase of providing online public access, and allow the Task Force to assess the impact of that change and identify particular problems that might arise with respect to certain categories of orders in specific case types.”  

The public will have access to all pleadings, filings and orders in only one case type, according to the report: expungements in which the petition is denied. The report noted, “there is great public value in posting the petitions for expungement and proceedings while in progress, and those orders that ultimately deny a petition. When expungements are granted, the expungement case and the underlying criminal conviction is made confidential and no longer available for online public access.”

The recommendations came after the task force met four times this year and examined the experiences of other states that have made trial court records available online. State courts took the first step in online access to records in July, when appellate courts began making available for online access all motions filed in non-confidential case types. Pleadings in attorney discipline cases, however, which originate as appellate actions, still have not been made publicly available online, though some orders in those cases are accessible.

Court records will not be made available to the public in confidential case types such as juvenile delinquencies and guardianships, and the task force deferred consideration of posting records in several case types: juvenile paternity, domestic relations, estate supervised, trust and miscellaneous criminal.
 
The report said the task force will consider next year whether to make orders in those cases available online to the public, as well as pleadings and filings in all non-confidential cases. The report said those decisions will be guided after initial online access been implemented and assessed. The task force has tentatively set four meetings in 2017: March 10, June 9, Sept. 8 and Dec. 8.
 
In addition to online comments on the report, comments also may be sent to Justin Forkner, deputy director of Indiana Office of Court Services, 30 S. Meridian St., Suite 500, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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