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Supreme Court Schedules February Hearing on Public Access to Judicial Records

The Washington Supreme Court has scheduled a public hearing on February 6th at 9:30 a.m. for a proposed new court rule governing public access to judicial branch administrative records. The public hearing will occur at the Supreme Court in Olympia.

The proposed rule presumes open access to judicial administrative records, within the standards and guidelines of the rule, and follows a four-month written comment period on the proposed rule that ended November 30, 2011.
 
The rule was developed to fill a gap in existing state laws and court rules, which do not address public access to judicial branch administrative records. The Washington State Public Records Act does not apply to judicial branch records, and General Court Rule 31 addresses only records pertaining to court proceedings. Because they belong to a separate branch of government, Washington courts and judicial branch agencies are not governed by the Legislature but by the state Supreme Court, which adopts “court rules” to regulate the operations of the courts.
 
In 2010, the Board for Judicial Administration (BJA) created the Public Records Work Group, which includes members both from within the judicial branch and from outside groups interested in public access to judicial records. The Work Group recommended new standards and procedures for providing this access and creating the proposed “General Court Rule (GR) 31A – Access to Administrative Records.”
 
The proposed rule defines the types of records it pertains to, procedures for obtaining access to the records, sanctions on courts or agencies for non-compliance, exemptions, creation of best practices, tools for handling particularly burdensome requests and an effective date that would give courts and judicial agencies time to train staff and develop best practices.
 
To read the proposed rule, go to http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/ and click “Proposed Rules Published for Comments,” then click the June 2011 rules, or go directly to http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.proposedRuleDisplay&ruleId=258.
 
Specific details on commenting procedures will be posted online at www.courts.wa.gov prior to the hearing. 
 
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Contacts: Nan Sullins, Administrative Office of the Courts, 360-357-2124.

 

Posted: January 6, 2012 - 5:00pm

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