Committee Chair Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat opened the session by describing the Committee’s charge as “deceptively simple and straightforward – to develop a uniform Trial Court policy relative to public access to records both in written and electronic form.”
Testimony included presentations and written comments from divergent views and perspectives. Those from the media and investigation services advocated for internet access to all court records and documents. Representatives from legal services, advocacy groups and family law attorneys asked the committee to use caution in making case information available on the internet that could jeopardize victim safety, disclose personal information, or create misunderstandings that could result in discriminatory practices or compromise the intent of CORI reform.
The Committee, established by Chief Justice Carey and Court Administrator Spence, includes judges, clerks and others from the seven departments of the Trial Court and Judicial Information Services, and representatives from the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court. The members are working to develop and propose uniform Trial Court rules governing the public's access to view or copy court case records, including paper and electronic case records, in a courthouse and on the internet, consistent with current Massachusetts laws, court rules, and appellate court decisions.
With the transition of the Superior Court to MassCourts scheduled for completion by the end of September, the Trial Court will have a single centralized system of electronic civil and criminal case management. Electronic access to case information is an issue that is being explored and debated across the country and practice varies greatly from state to state.
Currently, there are three ways to electronically access Trial Court records: through the intranet, available at the public computers in courthouses; the internet at www.masscourts.org; or through the attorney portal available to Massachusetts-licensed attorneys.
Once the Committee’s drafting process is completed, the proposed rules will be published to afford the public an opportunity to review and submit comments and suggestions. The Committee will reevaluate the proposed rules in light of all public comments received, and then present the proposed rules to the Trial Court and the Supreme Judicial Court for their consideration.
Public Access to Court Records Committee
Chief Justice Paula M. Carey
Craig D. Burlingame, Chief Information Officer
Hon. Andre Gelinas, Special Advisor, Information Services
Kim Wright, Esq., Senior Assistant - Judicial Policy
Daniel Sullivan, Esq., General Counsel
Elizabeth Barrett, Esq., Legal Department
Hon. Peter Lauriat, Chair
Michael Sullivan, Esq., Clerk-Magistrate
Hon. Roanne Sragow-Licht
Ellen Shapiro, Esq., Deputy Court Administrator
Joseph Ditkoff, Esq., General Counsel
Boston Municipal Court
Christopher Connolly, Esq. Administrative Attorney
Daniel Hogan, Esq., Clerk-Magistrate
Anne Marie Ritchie, Esq., Legal Counsel
Chief Justice Steven D. Pierce
Deborah Patterson, Recorder
Probate and Family Court
Hon. Gregory V. Roach
Linda Medonis, Esq., Deputy Court Administrator
Patrick McDermott, Esq., Registrar
Massachusetts Probation Service
Sarah Joss, Esq., Administrative Attorney
Supreme Judicial Court
Jennifer Donahue, Public Information Officer
Thomas Ambrosino, Esq., Executive Director
Joseph Stanton, Esq., Clerk