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Murphy’s Law

Your MDDC Update for Jan. 10, 2013 from Executive Director Jack Murphy
By Jack Murphy

Maryland newspapers got some good news from the Rules Committee of the Maryland Court of Appeals on Friday.

The committee decided to drop a proposed rule that would have excluded victims’ names from court records. Instead, the names will remain part of the official record, pending approval by the Court of Appeals.

Kalea Clark of the Washington Post legal department represented the Post and MDDC at the meeting and wrote our comments to the committee.

Eric Lieberman, Post vice president and general counsel, had alerted MDDC members to the proposed change last week and solicited examples of how the proposed rule would have adversely affected news gathering.

Dave Rosenthal and the staff of the Sun responded quickly with examples that helped convince the rules committee to change its mind.

Here is Kalea’s report:

“On Friday, January 5, 2013, the Rules Committee of the Maryland Court of Appeals met to consider proposed rules to govern its implementation of the Maryland Electronic Courts system (“MDEC”). Under MDEC, electronic filing will be mandatory (subject to some minor exceptions) and official court records will generally be maintained electronically. Although parties and attorneys of record will have remote access to their case records under MDEC, the Court of Appeals has declined to give the public remote access to court documents (apart from docket information) at this time.

“One of the rules under consideration by the Committee at its recent meeting was Proposed Rule 1-322.1, requiring the redaction or exclusion of certain information from court filings, including Social Security and Taxpayer Identification numbers, minor's names, financial account identifiers, driver's license numbers, name and address of victims or alleged victims of certain crimes, and names, addresses and birth dates of minors.

“MDDC submitted comments opposing the adoption of the provision requiring the exclusion of victim and alleged victim information. MDDC argued that such a restriction was unnecessary because the current rules contain protections for victim and alleged victim information and given that the public won’t be getting remote access to court documents under MDEC, there are no changed circumstances to warrant the additional restrictions. MDDC also argued that the public interest is furthered by access to this type of information, citing examples of newspaper articles in which such information is used.

“Consistent with MDDC’s comments, the Rules Committee declined to adopt the provision restricting the inclusion of victim and alleged victim information in court filings and took the further step of declining to include the provision restricting the inclusion of minor names. The Committee will now submit Proposed Rule 1-322.1, along with the other MDEC rules approved at its meeting, to the Court of Appeals for its consideration.”

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