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Benchmarks: Journal of the New York State Unified Court System

PUBLIC ACCESS TO THE COURTS

COURT RECORDS
The New York State court system, like others across the nation, is examining the meaning of public access to court records in the age of the Internet. Based on last year's report from a commission that studied the need to ensure open access to court records while protecting legitimate privacy and confidentiality concerns, the court system has developed a three-part plan to implement the recommendation that public court records be made available in electronic form over the Internet to the same extent that they are available in paper at the courthouse, with limited exceptions to protect sensitive information.

DECISIONS – Since 2000, some decisions from some courts have been published on the court system's Web site, largely at the discretion of individual judges. Under the new policy, decisions of all courts and all case types will be posted on the Web, subject to confidentiality limitations. As of January 1, 2005, over 156,000 trial court decisions were posted.

CALENDARS AND OTHER CASE INFORMATION – Currently, calendars and other case information for pending Supreme Court civil cases in all counties are published online on the "Future Court Appearance System" Web site, which receives approximately one million visits a year. Information is also available there for Housing Court in New York City and Erie County and for criminal cases in New York City and certain counties. The site can be accessed at www.nycourts.gov by double-clicking on "e-courts." Internet access to this information will be enhanced and extended to additional case-types and counties.

CASE FILES – The posting of actual files on the Internet presents a particularly difficult challenge. While there are electronic-filing pilots around the State, most cases are still filed by paper. Creating electronic versions of large case files presents significant issues of its own. In order to properly address the confidentiality and redaction issues involved, this component of the plan will be tested in a pilot program, which is under development.

JUDICIAL DIRECTORY
The public has a right to know basic information about elected or appointed officials who hold important positions of public trust. In February, the New York State Unified Court System took an important step toward this goal by unveiling a Judicial Directory at: www.nycourts.gov/judges/directory.shtml. The site provides basic biographical information about judges, including educational background; admission to the bar; prior professional experience; current and prior judicial seats, whether elected or appointed (and, if appointed, by whom); professional and civic activities and affiliations; and publications. The Judicial Directory was created in response to calls from the public, the media and bar associations to provide more information about state judges in an accessible manner. Because the information was not available in one place or in any uniform way, finding information about most judges was a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. The creation of the directory was also recommended by Chief Judge Kaye's Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections, known as the Feerick Commission, with the goal of creating a betterinformed electorate.

ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
In another effort to make information more accessible to the public, the court system is posting more details on its Web site about attorneys admitted to practice in New York State. Previously, the information available consisted of names, business addresses and phone numbers, and attorney registration numbers. Now, in addition, by clicking on "Attorney Directory" at www.nycourts.gov/attorneys, anyone can learn the date and Judicial Department of admission; the law school attended; the attorney's registration status - whether an attorney is currently registered, due to register or delinquent; and whether an attorney's status has been affected by any disciplinary action.

ATTORNEY ACCESS TO CASE INFORMATION ONLINE
Attorneys now have increased online access to criminal case information, eliminating a trip to the clerk's office to look at the case file. The first phase of this initiative enabled attorneys to access information - including details about the charges, scheduled appearances and motions - from computer terminals in the courthouse. As of May, attorneys can also access the same information remotely over the Internet. All that is needed to access the system is a user ID. The initiative includes pending cases in all criminal courts in New York City, Buffalo City Court and the County Court in Erie, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess Counties. A special feature of the program can provide email notification to the attorney of future court appearances in the case being tracked. The application for a user ID, available to attorneys at no charge, is available at: www.courts.state.ny.us/forms/AttorneyAccessto CRIMS.pdf. A list of courthouse terminals is available at: www.nycourts.gov/forms/listofCRIMSterminals.pdf.

Spring/Summer 2005PDF Format
HTML: Judicial Institute Judicial Salary Bill State of the Judiciary Drug Law Reform Welcome Innovative Jury Practices ABA American Jury Initiative Security Camera Network Court Security Review Profile: Joseph J. Traficanti Jr. Chief Justices In Manhattan Civil Case Management Court Officer Recruitment Public Access to Courts Family Court E-Petition Program Kids Go to Work Court Construction Update Fiduciary Commission Report OCA Update Bronx Court Cuts Case Backlog Law Day 2005 Merit Performance Awards

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Web page updated: February 5, 2007 - www.NYCOURTS.gov