“Information Wants To Be Free”
Stewart Brand circa 1984
WASHINGTON The Supreme Court will soon join other federal courts in making briefs and other filings available electronically, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. announced Wednesday. The changes will come “as soon as 2016.”
Chief Justice Roberts explained the court’s approach to technological change saying that judges had a special obligation to move more slowly than the rest of society.
I suppose it takes time to realize the benefits and then decide it is best to change and catch up with the rest of society, but the federal district courts have been using online electronic filing with public accessable court records online for over a decade. PACER (Public Access to Electronic Court Records) began in 1988 (library terminal access only) and was available on the World Wide Web in 2001.
Although PACER is outdated and charges a ridiculous fee of .10 a page, Minnesota’s courts are still trapped somewhere in the 1980s with absolutely no online access to court filings available to the public. There is no electronic access to actual court filings available (as opposed to the currently available online records, which are limited to only court dockets via MNCIS or just the “index” or “Table of Contents” of a case’s filings–you can see something was filed but not what that something actually is!) unless you go to a public terminal at a courthouse.
I have yet to hear a worthwhile reason that supports restricting access to public records to only courthouses rather than making them readily available to all via the internet (and for free-unlike PACER). Maybe it is to encourage people to visit their local courthouses on more than a only-when-legally-mandated basis?
The rest of the SCOTUS NY Times story can be read via this link Supreme Court, in Big Leap, Plans to Put Filings Online – NYTimes.com.
FOR MORE RECENT PUBLIC RECORDS NEWS SEE:
Tampabay.com “The governor took the state’s public records tradition in a new direction as he used taxpayer …”
- Public records battle expected to resume at Nevada Legislature
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Appleton Post Crescent–Jan 3, 2015 “The question also impacts the public records law, which permits authorities such as the courts to charge only ‘the actual, necessary and direct …”
Happy, Happy, Joy Joy! Bankruptcy stats for the fiscal year are out! This is better than x-mas and thanksgiving all rolled into one holiday!
BANKRUPTCIES ARE BACK DOWN TO PRE-RECESSION NUMBERS!
There is just a little taste below, but for more sexy stats and tantalizing tables go here:
Since it is the
New Year almost February middle of March 15th of April end of May start of June 2014, I feel obligated to finish my “Best of 2013” list. After all, the year will be half over soon (today is the 159th day and it is only 43.56% over). You can’t do a “Best of List” of the preceding year when you are into February March April May June July of the current year. That would be way too late. Too late for polite company. It would be like wearing white shoes after Labor Day; or is it wearing white pants, no shoes, er, anything white including shoes? Who wears white shoes? Basketball players and ballerinas. Oh! Or is it white before Memorial Day? I don’t have any white shoes . . . or ballet slippers . . and it is almost Ground Hog Day Saint Patty’s Day Tax Day just was Memorial Day, almost so . . .. Self, get back to the list-thing.
December 2, 2013–Top Ten Cases of 2013
Everyone does a list, especially bloggers who have already wrote everything imaginable about Christmas by December 2 and can’t think of anything else to write about so they move to the next holiday. Attorneys always list their best cases–The Winners!–on their web sites. So I thought (originally no doubt): A list of my “Top Ten Cases of 2013.” Legal topics, marketing purpose, personal experiences, PERFECT! I can draft this post easily! I’ll have it up in no time. They say bloggers should write lists because people like to read lists. Not real sure why? Something about short attention spans I think. So a List it will be! I’ll be listing!
December 25, 2013–Top Ten Topical Topics of 2013
As December wore on, it kept getting harder to come up with an overall topic, a triumphant theme that tied together ten tantalizing, things tightly. But related items made it harder. Something will come to me if I just take my time and think. And I didn’t want to post it too soon in December for fear of being perceived as a blogger who ran out of Christmas themed blog posts too soon. I did not. I still wrote about reindeer on the 23rd (in red and green fonts)! But not in a list? Hmmm. . . .
January 18, 2014–The Favorite Five
Once it got to be into the new year, I thought, “Well, I’ll just do a list of my, “Top Five Cases of 2013.” Listing 10 would sound too pretentious anyway. I don’t want to come off like some arrogant jerk bragging about myself. Even with 5 cases, it is still considered marketing. Five cases seems about right. A list can have 5 items. Milk, bread, sugar, coffee and . . toilet paper. If the short attention span thing is true, then ten is too long anyway. Way too long. I’ll keep it to five. A list of 5. Self, the list ain’t gonna write itself, ya know!
February 28, 2014 The _____Five Cases of 2013
I knew I should have started this earlier. Like in 2012. I was finally getting ready to start listing things. OK. Top cases. Best cases? Shouldn’t be too tough. Let’s see . Above all else? The highest, the tallest, the apex? . . Top, The Best, Greater, Better, Grander, Superior, this is starting to sound like I’m describing a ballroom. . . . What’s so superior or grand or better about Lawsuits? Settlements? Hmm . . . Maybe Outcomes? Sounds easy enough . . . Best Resolutions. . . . Wait! What about if it just wound up being the lesser of two (or five) bad outcomes. It was still a Grand Resolution, but it won’t sound very grand. Hmmmm?
March 21, 2014 The
-Top Greatest Best Winners Most Epic Awesomeness 5 Cases of 2013
How do you define “Top Resolution”? “Win” won’t work. Best results? Expectations exceeded? Most money saved? Greatest trouble avoided? Unlikeliest results achieved? Quickest? Most cost-effective representation? Best value? Most ridiculous deadline met? Most obnoxious opponent defeated. This might be real short. This is hard. Self, write the damn list already!
May Day–The Five 2013
I know, I’ll do a list of my top 5 “Victories” of the year. I’ll make the definition general and broad enough to cover the cases I feel had a good resolution and can be easily viewed as victorious. Even if it is by those “on the outside looking in.” No lesser of two evils. Strictly feel good results. Remember the marketing! Yes. This will work. “Top Five Triumphant Victories of 2013” it is then. Now to get to the listing.
- Not too many inside references. Check.
- Typical attorney fashion. Check.
- Keep the descriptions vague. Check.
- Keep the types of cases somewhat generic. Check.
- Have to obscure identities. Check.
- Use a different basis for claim. Check.
- But still keep it real. Check.
- Only select best parts. Check.
- Leave out negative facts. Check.
- Don’t mention the awful parts that only I think are funny. Check.
- Don’t mention any bad parts. Check.?
- Didn’t I already say that one? Check!
- Say how awesome I am. Check?
- Make it all self-congratulatory, without sounding too braggadocio. Check.
- But it’s for marketing purposes, ya know? check;
June 1–A List
I need to get started. But it is so hard to write a list! At least to get started I’ll write a title: “Most Victory Tops 15 Things I did Last Year Resulting in, uh. yea. um and Better. . . .”
Aww, forget it. I’ll do it next year. Self, but there was a list or two . . .sorta.
Story from ABA Journal
After judge’s fistfight with public defender was broken up, he returned to the bench, says report
By Martha Neil
Jun 2, 2014, 05:45 pm CDT
Updated: A Florida judge told a veteran public defender to step outside the courtroom on Monday, then punched the attorney until sheriff’s deputies broke up the altercation, WFTV reports.
Although the incident occurred outside the range of a court camera, it captured audio, including what the station describes as several loud thuds. No one was charged in the incident, and Brevard County Judge John Murphy is said to have gone back on the bench afterward and continued his criminal court call.
The fireworks occurred after a courtroom dispute in which assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock resisted pressure to waive his client’s speedy trial rights.
“If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass,” Murphy told Weinstock as the two men exited the courtroom, WFTV reports. A short time earlier, the judge said: “You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down.”
Weinstock said he had expected to talk with the judge in the hallway outside the courtroom, 18th Judicial Court public defender Blaise Trettis told the station. “The attorney said that immediately upon entering the hallway he was grabbed by the collar and began to be struck. There was no discussion, no talk, not even time for anything. Just as soon as they’re in the hallway, the attorney was grabbed.”
Florida Today has obtained the courtroom video and reports that those in the courtroom applauded as the judge returned to the bench saying: “I will catch my breath eventually.”
WKMG also has a story and video.
The articles don’t include any comment from the judge or any court official.
Weinstock has now been assigned to another courtroom.
in a Tuesday written statement, Chief Judge John M. Harris said Murphy is on a paid temporary leave of absence and has agreed to take anger management classes and get unspecified “treatment.”
A spokeswoman told Florida Today on Tuesday that the Florida Bar is looking into the incident. Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission would not confirm to the newspaper whether it was investigating Murphy.
A county sheriff’s spokeswoman said Tuesday that the department is seeking statements from both Murphy and Weinstock.
Updated on June 5 to include more information from a subsequent ABAJournal.com post.
What is this? A Pol with a real apology? He’s reading it, but it sounds heartfelt. I giveth thee the benefit of my doubt, Charlie. You picked the wrong guy to swipe a song from, but hey, at least you have good taste!
I love the creative settlement term that seems to fit the offense. If you used the song on YouTube without licensing it, then you should apologize on YouTube for doing so. Seems apt.
What bothers me is our “lawmakers” either: 1) Don’t know much about the law (less than a typical teenager in this case); 2) Don’t care what the law is if it gets in their way; 3) Don’t believe it applies to them; or/and 4) Are so dumb they don’t think they’ll get caught using a song publicly for a political campaign. All of the above?
After spending five months locked up for contempt of court, an Alabama blogger was released from the Shelby County jail on March 26, 2014. Roger Shuler writes and publishes a blog on Alabama law and politics called “Legal Schnauzer.” He had been accused of defamation and was ordered to stop writing about a prominent Alabama attorney, Robert R. Riley, the son of a former Alabama Governor. Mr. Riley was rumored to be planning a run for Congress at the time.
SHUT UP, SHULER!
Mr. Shuler asserted he was never personally served with the Court’s “gag order” and had continued writing about the potential future congressman. Mr. Shuler’s posts alleged Mr. Riley was having an extra-martial affair and impregnated a local lobbyist named Liberty Duke (can’t make this up). Mr. Riley filed a Petition with the Court and requested Mr. Shuler and his wife be locked up for violating the Court’s Orders by continuing to post defamatory statements.
Shortly after Mr. Shuler was jailed in late October 2013, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), a non-profit legal assistance organization, sent a letter to the presiding Judge. The RCFP’s letter requested The Honorable Claude D. Neilson to reconsider his decision that censored and confined the blogger. The RCFP argued Mr. Shuler’s jailing for contempt of court was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Prior Restraint is when the government makes you shut your mouth before you can even open it–more descriptively called “Pre-Publication Censorship.” The RCFP’s letter succinctly laid out the law for one of the most egregious types of censorship and First Amendment violation:
The Supreme Court has never upheld a prior restraint, or a government prohibition on speech. In Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, it found these bans on speech presumptively unconstitutional and called them “the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.” 427 U.S. 539, 558-59 (1976). See also Near v. State of Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697, 713 (1931) (calling prior restraint “the essence of censorship.”) The Supreme Court has speculated that prior restraints may only be allowed to prevent disclosure of information that would provide troop locations in wartime or “set in motion a nuclear holocaust.” Id. at 716.
MORE TO COME
The blogger’s wife had to take down the blog posts to spring Mr. Shuler out of jail. Mr. Shuler writes well, but I’ll tell you, his posts about the alleged illicit affair were not as torrid, dangerous or inflammatory as an actual nuclear holocaust.
Shuler plans to sue.
- More from ThinkProgress here
- And RCFP here
- And from Alabama’s Best Community Newspaper, The Shelby County Reporter, here
From the “Think Before You Post” File
A daughter violated the confidentiality clause in her father’s Settlement Agreement with a braggadocio posting on Facebook. Inevitably, the young lady’s post eventually drew the attention of the defense counsel in the employment discrimination case.
“Mama and Papa … won the case against Gulliver,” she wrote referencing the the employer. “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
The trial court did not find the post a breach of the agreement. However, on appeal to Florida’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court stating, “[B]efore the ink was dry on the agreement, and notwithstanding the clear language … mandating confidentiality, [he] violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do.” Apparently, the daughter had 1200 friends on the site so there was no claiming it was a private message or not intended for public consumption.
After finding the terms of the agreement clear and unambiguous, the Court held:
In this case, the plain, unambiguous meaning of … the agreement between [the father] and the school is that neither [he] nor his wife would “either directly or indirectly” disclose to anyone (other than their lawyers or other professionals) “any information” regarding the existence or the terms of the parties’ agreement.
They disclosed it to their daughter and she disclosed to at least 1200 other people on-line with the Facebook post. This is a real expensive way to learn the internet is a public forum. It also is an expensive way to find out how easily a confidentiality agreement is breached.
Read the appellate decision here and more info from the news story is below.
Minnesota Trial Court Public Access websites, mote commonly known as “MNCIS,” (Minnesota Court Information System), are a powerful and cost-effective tool for discovering information on anyone involved in the Minnesota trial court system. MNCIS has docket information for Minnesota civil and criminal court cases, judgment records and court calendars. All of these records can be used to determine if an individual has existing, unpaid judgments, is being sued, or has been sued, if there is a criminal court case open, at least one that has resulted in a conviction or guilty plea, if there has been a divorce, child custody case, adoption, name change, probate proceeding and what time and where a court appearance is through the court calendars, and other information.
Free (taxpayer funded) on the Internet
Although MNCIS on the web (Click HERE for Access) is not reliable enough for comprehensive searches and should not be used as your only criminal background check tool (more to come, but in the meantime enjoy this try www.mncriminals.com instead, technically still “free” but slowly and surely being overrun with ads and pay options) it can tell you if a warrant is out for someone. You only need to know the person’s name, but not necessarily even the correct spelling. When performing a search by Party name, try checking the box for Soundex-a “sounds like” search in English for use when you do not know the proper spelling of a name).
Although you used to be able to get more information, privacy concerns have restricted some data available over the internet on MNCIS, However, when one hand taketh the other hand giveth: A lot of the records that are not available on the web version of MNCIS can be obtained by going to a courthouse and using (for free) the court’s public access computer terminals.
As a non-exclusive example, you can get some home addresses this way with a just name search if the person has been through the court system in a civil or criminal matter. On the web-based MNCIS, you cannot get pre-conviction records (“innocent until proven otherwise”). But at the courthouse you can get the pre-conviction records for criminal, traffic and petty misdemeanor cases. Likewise, the Violence Against Women Act, a federal law, prevents MNCIS on the internet from displaying information on harassment and domestic abuse cases, but these records can be obtained at the courthouse.
Garbage In Means Garbage Out
There are errors, people have the same names, records are not always reliably entered or available and the search engine in MNCIS makes you appreciate Google on a whole new level. The current civil court case records are pretty reliable and accurate but be careful of how much you relay on any single source of public data always confirm the information through another source. Or three if possible.
Bankruptcy court filings probably contain more financial information on a debtor than any other source. Of course, they are only available if a debtor has previously filed for bankruptcy protection with one of the U.S. District Courts. Depending on the type of bankruptcy filed, the debtor may still keep possession of the assets after her/his case is closed and is no longer subject to any legal restrictions on collection activity.
Commonly disclosed information on bankruptcy filings includes the following nonexclusive items: last four digits of the SSN, addresses, real estate locations and values, bank account location and information, motor vehicle information, general value of assets owned, specific information about other debts (secured or unsecured), personal property and its claimed value, etc. In a Chapter 11 or 13 (sometimes Chapter 7 too), such as, the debtor may have gone through the bankruptcy process and kept the some of the assets through a restructured payment plan, by reaffirming the debt or through other means. In large quality/quantity asset cases it can be well worth your time to further investigate and find out if the debtor still owns any of the listed assets.
Access to Information
A Creditor can gain access the records for Minnesota bankruptcies via the bankruptcy court’s web site at www.mnb.uscourts.gov. Minnesota’s bankruptcy courts were one of the first in the nation to offer online access to its records. You can now gain access to nationwide records through Public Access to Court’s Electronic Records-PACER- see http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/ and a fee per page is charged for access. The website provides free tutorials to help get you started on your bankruptcy filing research: Click here to start…
With or without the video tutorials, it is a fairly easy site to navigate, you will only need Adobe Acrobat Reader (available for free download with a link from the Court’s website). You may search by case number, social security number or the debtor’s name. Subject to per page fees. Everyone should check it out and see what they can find about a corporate or individual debtor who has previously filed for bankruptcy protection (or neighbor or friend (current/former or even a family member).
New Fee Schedule (04/01/2013)