Due to the large amount of information being included, this report on “unauthorized electronic access” at the Circuit Court Clerks office, under the watchful eye of Chief Deputy Clerk Keith Brin, will be broken down into a 3-part series as follows:
Part 1) The law as stated in the “Electronic Access Policy for Circuit Court Records of the Illinois Courts”(the policy directive by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts and governed by the Illinois Supreme Court). This will set the basis for this report and give you a better understanding when reading the two follow-up reports.
Part 2) What policy rules were broken, denial of an additional electronic access system, the “Haves” and “Have-Nots” when it came to who had knowledge of the “alternate” electronic access system, questionable security of court records, unlimited record access versus limited access, non-bid e-File contract, and more.
Part 3) The legal Showdown (conclusion)
PART ONE: (The Electronic Access Policy)
The Policy states the following in describing the purpose of electronic access (with emphasis added in bold by me).
This policy is intended to provide electronic access to court records in a way that mutually benefits the public and the judiciary by making access to certain records convenient for the public while protecting the privacy of identifiable interests. Due to the growing interest in electronic filing, courts may offer even broader public access in the future.
This policy takes into consideration law enforcement risks that would be created by unlimited public access to information in criminal case files, as well as the safety of defendants who are cooperating with prosecuting authorities.
The purpose of this policy is to provide a comprehensive policy on electronic access to the court records held by the Clerk of the Circuit Court.
All courts and clerks shall employ appropriate security measures, procedures, devices, and software to protect the courts records and to prevent unauthorized access.
The official court records held by the Clerk of Court are available for inspection during regular office hours for that office. Such access shall be through the use of a computer terminal for inspection. (Note:The clerk may set a fee for printed pages.) This policy does not preclude or require “after hours” access to court records in electronic form beyond the hours access is available at the courthouse.
The right to disseminate any court records may not be subject to any exclusive contract with another person or entity. Any contract with a vendor to provide electronic access to court records must be approved by the chief judge.
Who Has Access:
Every member of the public will have the same electronic access to court records. Attorneys of record may be allowed greater electronic access to their specific cases.
“Electronic Court Record” = includes information related to the indexes, calendars, record sheets, pleadings, complaints, orders, dispositions, and other case information which are maintained by the clerk of the court in electronic form.
“Official Court Record” = the basic record
“Court Rule” = any rule of the Supreme Court of Illinois and any local rule or administrative order established as provided by Supreme Court Rule 21.
“Law” = any federal or state statutes passed by the U.S. Congress or the Illinois General Assembly
Dissemination of Court Records in Electronic Form:
Dissemination of bulk information in electronic form is not permitted for court records except where explicitly provided by court rule, court order, or law.
Dissemination of compiled information (an aggregation or manipulation of court information from more than one individual court record) in electronic form is not permitted except where explicitly provided by court rule, court order, or law.
There shall be no additional fees for electronic access to the court records as provided by this policy.
The clerk of court shall maintain for inspection at all times a current copy of this policy, along with any local rule associated with this policy.
Part 2 will deal with an “alternate” unauthorized electronic access system which is why I first included portions of the Electronic Access Policy. You will see how the Circuit Court Clerks office, under the guidance of Chief Deputy Clerk Keith Brin, failed to follow proper policy procedures when it came to public access to the court records. Keep in mind that the Clerks office is the “keeper” of the court’s records. They are NOT the Clerks records.