A new bill about Wisconsin’s online court records and who can see them is getting so much backlash, its author announced Thursday he’s drastically changing it.
Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said changes to the bill concerning the state’s consolidated court automation programs are less about restrictions and more about helping the innocent.
At Thursday’s public hearing, Goyke retracted three of the bill’s five parts. Instead, he’s focused on the one part that would give people a chance to wipe their online record clean.
The way CCAP works now is simple. A person’s civil and criminal cases are filed online. The information is free and open to the public.
What’s up for debate at the Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing has to do with a line that references a case's dismissal in CCAP.
In Tracy Olkwitz’s case, a judge dismissed two sexual assault charges against her, but she said the 20-year-old claim keeps haunting her.
“Imagine what it’s like sitting in a job interview and you’re blindsided by being asked, 'what happened back in 1993,'" said Olkwitz.
Olkwitz, Goyke and five other Democrats support a bill that would allow a person to request case information be removed from CCAP if they’re found not guilty. The bill also applies to civil cases, evictions and restraining orders.
“I am on the sex-offender list,” said Olkwitz. “I’m on the unofficial one that your neighbors use, the people you work with use, the 18-year-old kid down the road, and I’m stuck on it and I didn’t even do it.”
“There still ought to be publicly available information about what happens in our court system,” said Wisconsins Freedom of Information Council President Bill Leuders.
“People ought to be able to find out what our courts are doing,” said Leuders. “You shouldn’t shield from public view every case in which a prosecutor doesn’t win.”
Other opponents argued for transparency and maintained that limited access to CCAP could be a problem for victims trying to track their cases.
In all, 21 people testified about the bill that could change a system that’s been open to everyone for 14 years.
Goyke said instead of drafting a new bill, he’s going to submit an amendment. It’s a shorter process that won’t likely require another public hearing. He hopes to introduce the bill in the upcoming legislative session.
One of the most contentious parts of the bill included creating a separate CCAP-like database that was only open to certain people, such as journalists, judges and law-enforcement officials. But that proved messy and expensive.