On March 11, 2008, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an order to restrict internet access to court records throughout the state courts. Effective June 10, 2008, only court dockets will be available to view online in Oklahoma. Any other documents, such as pleadings, will no longer be available to be viewed online.
In addition to completely restricting online access to court records, the order also included a mandate to redact any personal identifiers for court records, such as social security numbers birth dates. The first line of the order explains that the order was issued “in an effort to balance the rights of privacy of individuals who use Oklahoma’s court system and public access to court documents.”
While many understand the Court’s decision to redact personal identifiers, they are struggling to understand why they will be stripped of the ability to access any court records online. This order has created quite a commotion in the Oklahoma legal community not only because the order is a major shift in Oklahoma’s public access policy, but also because notice was not given regarding the potential shift, and the Court did not solicit input from any members of the legal community other than court clerks. In a dissenting opinion, two Justices concluded that they:
“Would have at the very least asked that this issue be addressed in cooperation with the Bar Association and with an opportunity for public comment. This public information which was previously available to the bench, bar, and litigants has been removed from viewing without any consideration for, or consultation with, lawyers and judges who use the information on a daily basis to do their jobs more efficiently or from public litigants attempting to seek legal redress.”