Advocates seek privacy in online court records

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(Host) An advisory committee appointed by the Vermont Supreme Court is trying to decide which court records should be made available online. The group is trying to balance personal privacy with accountability.

The panel is headed by trial court Judge Alan Cook. Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard, Cook said it’s important that court documents be accessible so judges can be held accountable.

(Cook) “I think it’s very important. We have issues relating to the retention of judges in office. Our judges come up every six years and the legislature makes a decision as to whether they’re going to stay on the job or not and I believe the legislature needs to have the information in order to rate performance.”

(Host) Committee member Priscilla Dubay is a divorce lawyer. Dubay says she opposes making very personal information from family court files available online.

(Dubay) “I’m not certain about the public’s right to know some of those details. I certainly understand the accountability issues. I’m trying to balance that awful, painful time in someone’s life against the possibility that there might be some concern about a judge’s behavior. I think that the judge can be addressed in different ways.”

(Host) Dubay says if the Vermont Supreme Court decides to post sensitive information from legal proceedings online, it could discourage some people from using the courts.

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