Monday, October 12, 2009

The Mississippi Supreme Court revises the Mississippi Electronic Courts Administrative Procedures

Last month, the Mississippi Supreme Court saw fit to restrict electronic access to certain types of court files in the Mississippi Electronic Courts system, known as "MEC".  Prior to the change, only sealed files were hidden from public view.  Now, the Court has altered its restricted access definition to include the following types of cases:
Debt Collection; Garnishment; Replevin; Child Custody/Visitation; Child Support; Divorce: Fault; Divorce: Irreconcilable Differences; Modification; Paternity; Termination of Parental Rights; Birth Certificate Correction; Conservatorship; Guardianship; Minor's Settlement; Protection from Domestic Abuse Law.
Under MEC, there are four types of "special" items.  Sealed files, sealed documents, documents submitted for in camera review, and restricted access files.  A sealed file may not be viewed at all on MEC.  All searches for a sealed file fail to produce any results whatsoever.  Only court personnel can even see that the case exists.  (Think the Pickering divorce case.)  Sealed documents and documents submitted for in camera review will be reflected with a docket entry that says either "sealed document" or "document submitted for in camera review," but, like sealed files, the documents themselves will only be viewable by court personnel.  (Think Chip Pickering's diary in the attendant alienation of affection suit.)  Restricted access files show up in search results, but the internet MEC user may only view the docket, not the pleadings themselves.  (Think your divorce or your neighbor's.)  In order to view the pleadings, a member of the public can go to a public terminal at the courthouse.

I have been told that the reason the above-listed types of cases were selected for restricted status is that identity thieves could have a field day with the large amount of personal information typically contained in these pleadings.  I understand the position, and agree that the redaction requirements would be rather burdensome.

What do y'all think?


Casey Ann said...

Your "Write Message" button isn't working - at least for me.

Kingfish said...

No, the problem is the clerks are lazy and don't want to do what they should be doing, which is redacting DL and SS numbers in files. There is NOTHING right now to stop an identity thief from going to the courthouse now, looking up divorce cases, and then committing identity theft.

Jim Craig said...

The "identity theft" justification sounds bogus to me also, KF. The Federal District Courts require attorneys to redact SSNs and children's names from pleadings before they are filed.

Without sounding too conspiratorial, it sure looks like the Justices are covering for the closure order in Pickering v Pickering.

Looks like another easy Section 1983 injunction with attorneys' fees on top for the ACLU, Rob McDuff or someone like them . . .