Court Information Office
Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
For Immediate Release
COURT RECORDS TASK FORCE EXPANDED
ANNAPOLIS, MD, December 21, 2000 - Upon the recommendation of the Judiciary's ad hoc court records committee, Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell will form a larger group in January, to examine the issues which the committee has raised.
The committee's recommendations were based upon a review of public comments and testimony heard at the December 13th hearing, which was the culmination of a period of public input prompted by the publication of the draft policy and administrative order on access to court records.
"Although I have not yet received a full report from the ad hoc committee in writing, I was briefed on the committee's recommendations and concerns," Judge Bell said. "I understand that while the committee still recommends that limitations be placed on dial-up access to the court's database of conviction and non-conviction data, the committee recommends that a more representative task force be appointed to reexamine all the issues in light of the comments the Judiciary has received. Current subscribers will be unaffected while the task force conducts its study."
Much of the public feedback focused on the differences between the Judiciary's database and the one administered by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Judge Bell met today with Public Safety Secretary Stuart Simms to discuss the public's comments. According to Judge Bell, "Secretary Simms advised me that his agency is wrestling with similar issues regarding access, and recommended that the examination be broader than just court records. Recognizing the importance of the public's right of access balanced with the right of privacy, I agree that the larger group should include representatives from the executive and legislative branches, and the public at large."
The expanded task force is expected to include representatives from the commercial compilers and vendors, the media, the Department of Public Safety, the legislature, other Judiciary committees, and privacy groups. The task force will be asked to consider the ad hoc committee's written report as the basis for their examination of the issue of public access.
Judge Bell plans to appoint the task
force in early January. "I see the written comments we received as a potential
resource for this task force, and am likely to call upon some of those
who provided those comments to help the Judiciary tackle this complex and
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