One of the toughest challenges in defending the public’s right to access to government records is disagreeing with folks who truly believe people are being hurt by the information in those records. In the minds of these folks the perception of harm done to an individual outweighs the essential value of open and transparent government.
But the operative word there is perception. And it doesn’t justify efforts to restrict what information is available to the public on the state’s online courts records system. The idea is that one’s involvement in the court system remains in state records and available to the public even after acquittal or dismissal of a charge. But such actions are clearly indicated and easily discovered. The alternative, limiting the information available to citizens about what happens in the citizens’ courts, is even more dangerous and susceptible to mischief.
We don’t mean to sound harsh. But democracy can be unwieldy and it demands care. There’s a hearing on this short-sighted proposal Thursday at 10 a-m. We hope it goes no further.