Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: February 25, 2004

Seal of the Unified Court System
www.nycourts.gov
New York Court Records To Be Posted on the Internet
- Move Follows Recommendations from
Commission on Public Access to Court Records

NEW YORK - The New York state court system will begin making court records available on the Internet, joining just a handful of states nationwide to provide individual case file information online, along with court decisions and dockets. The program follows recommendations released in a report by the Commission on Public Access to Court Records, a 22-member panel appointed by Chief Judge Judith Kaye to examine open access and privacy issues concerning court records and chaired by nationally renowned First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams.


The Commission, whose membership included representatives from the judiciary, bar, media organizations, public interest groups and business community, conducted three public hearings throughout New York State and examined the courts’ existing rules and practices concerning paper and electronic records before compiling a report on the subject. Following its multi-pronged inquiry, the Commission recommended that information already deemed public in court files not be subjected to greater restrictions before being placed on the Internet. At the same time, the Commission proposed that court records, whether paper or electronic, not contain complete social security numbers, financial account numbers, names of minor children and birth dates to protect the privacy and security of individuals, with the responsibility for ensuring compliance falling on the filing attorney or self-represented litigant.


“In a society where paper is becoming obsolete, and electronic transmittal of information is often the norm, more and more people each day expect to gather information and conduct their daily business on the Internet,” said Chief Judge Kaye. “The courts must adapt to this modern reality and consider new means to provide better public access. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that for the first time in New York’s history, the court system will begin to make case file information available on the Internet, while at the same time putting into place safeguards to protect the privacy and safety of litigants. The Commission on Public Access to Court Records, chaired by the distinguished Floyd Abrams, has helped to shape the Judiciary’s policies in this area by offering sound, practical recommendations on how to proceed. I sincerely thank all the members of the Commission for their contributions of time and expertise, which have laid the foundation for achieving this milestone today.”


Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman said, “The Commission’s recommendations wisely balance the sometimes competing interests of open access and privacy and have proved invaluable in helping the courts devise a plan for placing court records on the Internet. Under our new program, case information already deemed public according to current laws will not be viewed as any less public for the purposes of accessibility on the Internet. We will begin with selected pilot programs in locations across the state, proceeding on a prospective basis with the records of new cases. This ground-breaking program will help the courts keep pace with technology and provide open access to public records while ensuring even greater safeguards for personal privacy.”


New York State law dictates that Family Court cases, matrimonial actions and sealed case files are confidential and not open for public inspection. The confidential status of these records will not be altered under the court system’s new open access initiative, and these records will not be available on the Internet.


In New York, case decisions, court calendars and docket information for certain regions of the state are currently accessible online. Under the new program, the availability of this information will be expanded throughout the state, in addition to providing for the first time individual case information on the Internet. While many states provide case decisions and docket information on the Internet, only a few besides New York have established or are establishing statewide programs to post individual case records on the Internet.


Copies of the Commission’s report can be obtained from the Internet at www.nycourts.gov/ip/publicaccess or by calling 212-428-2500.

 
Web page updated: August 16, 2006