E-Access To Civil Cases Allowed

By: Todd Shields

Federal courts may allow electronic access to civil and bankruptcy case files, but not to criminal case files, according to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the courts’ rules-making body.

Law-enforcement agents or witnesses could be harmed if information identifying them is widely spread, said U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry A. Davis, who helped guide the courts’ policy review and announced the decision Wednesday. Davis said the courts would re-examine access to criminal files within two years.

Davis said the guiding principle is to make court files available “as much as we can, and look at the safety issues.”

Free-speech advocates lauded the decision as an important statement of openness as a guiding principle. Access will be through the fee-based PACER system.

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