Order 19.1. Redaction in Court Administration Records

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Confidential information as defined and described in Sections III(A)(11) and VII(B) of Administrative Order 19 shall not be included as part of a court administrative record unless the confidential information is necessary to the administration of the judicial branch of government. Section III(A)(3) of the Order defines an administrative record as any document, information, data, or other item created, collected, received, or maintained by a court, court agency, or clerk of court pertaining to the administration of the judicial branch of government. If inclusion of confidential information in a court administrative record is necessary to the administration of the judicial branch of government:

A. The confidential information shall be redacted from the court administrative record to which public access is granted pursuant to Section IV(A) of Administrative Order 19. The point in the court administrative record at which the redaction is made shall be indicated by striking through the redacted material with an opaque black mark or by inserting some explanatory notation in brackets, such as: [Information Redacted], [I.R.], [Confidential], or [Subject To Protective Order]. The requirement that the redaction be indicated in a court administrative record shall not apply to administrative records rendered confidential by expungement or other legal authority that expressly prohibits disclosure of the existence of a record; and

B. An un-redacted copy of the court administrative record with the confidential information included shall be filed with the court under seal. It is the responsibility of a court, court agency, or clerk of court creating a court administrative record to ensure that confidential information is omitted or redacted from administrative records. As noted in Section XI of Administrative Order 19, a court may use its inherent contempt powers to enforce this rule.

Comment Text: 

 

Appendix I. Commentary

Section I. Commentary

The objective of this order is to promote public accessibility to court records, taking into account public policy interests that are not always fully compatible with unrestricted access. The public policy interests listed above are in no particular order. This order attempts to balance competing interests and recognizes that unrestricted access to certain information in court records could result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy or unduly increase the risk of injury to individuals and businesses. This order recognizes there are strong societal reasons for allowing public access to court records, and denial of access could compromise the judiciary's role in society, inhibit accountability, and endanger public safety. Open access allows the public to monitor the performance of the judiciary, furthers the goal of providing public education about the results in cases, and, if properly implemented, reduces court staff time needed to provide public access.

This order starts from the presumption of open public access to court records. In some circumstances; however, there may be sound reasons for restricting access to these records. This order recognizes that there are times when access to information may lead to, or increase the risk of, harm to individuals. However, given the societal interests in access to court records, this order also reflects the view that any restriction to access must be implemented in a manner tailored to serve the interests in open access. It is also important to remember that, generally, at least some of the parties in a court case are not in court voluntarily, but rather have been brought into court by plaintiffs or by the government. A person who is not a party to the action may also be mentioned in the court record. Care should be taken that the privacy rights and interests of such involuntary parties or "third" persons are not unduly compromised.

Subsection (C) is intended to assure that public access provided under this order does not apply to information gathered, maintained, or stored by other agencies or entities that is not necessary to, or is not part of the basis of, a court's decision or the judicial process. Access to this information is governed by the law and the access policy of the agency collecting and maintaining such information. The ability of a computer in a court or clerk's office to access the information, because the computer uses shared software and databases, does not, by itself, make the information subject to this order.

Existing laws, rules and policies regarding court records have been carefully reviewed during the development of this access policy.

The Administrative Office of the Courts may provide advisory information to individuals or entities about the provisions, restrictions, and limitations of this order.

Section II. Commentary

Section II(A) provides the general rule that all persons, including members of the general public, the media, and commercial and noncommercial entities, are entitled to the same basic level of access to court records. Generally, access to court records is not determined by who is seeking access or the purpose for seeking access; however, some users, such as court employees or the parties to a particular case, may have greater access to those particular records than is afforded the general public.

Section II(B) provides the exception to the general rule and specifies the entities and persons for whom courts may provide greater access. This greater level of access is a result of the need for effective management of the judicial system and the protection of the right to a fair trial.

Sections II(B)(1) through (4) identify groups whose authority to access court records is different from that of the public.

Subsection (1): Employees of the court, court agency, and clerk of court need greater access than the public in order to do their work and therefore work under different access rules.

Subsection (2): Employees and subcontractors of entities who provide services to the court or clerk of court or court agency, that is, court services that have been "outsourced," may also need greater access to information to do their jobs and therefore operate under a different access policy. Section X provides the requirements under this order for contracts with vendors concerning court records.

Subsection (3): This subsection is intended to cover personnel in other governmental agencies who have a need for information in court records in order to do their work. An example of this would be an integrated justice system operated on behalf of several justice system agencies where access is governed by internal policies or statutes or rules applicable to all users of the integrated system.

Subsection (4): This subsection continues nearly unrestricted access by litigants and their lawyers to information in their own cases but no higher level of access to information in other cases. As to cases in which they are not the attorney of record, attorneys would have the same access as any other member of the public.

Section III. Commentary

Sections III(A)(1)-(3) explain which records in a court are covered by this order.

Section III(A)(1) excludes from the definition of "court record" information gathered, maintained, or stored by other agencies or entities that is not necessary to, or is not part of the basis of a court's decision or the judicial process. Access to this information is governed by the laws and access policy of the agency collecting and maintaining such information. The ability of a computer in a court or clerk's office to access the information, because the computer uses shared software and databases, does not, by itself, make the court records access policy applicable to the information. An example of this is information stored in an integrated criminal justice information system where all data is shared by law enforcement, the prosecutor, the court, defense counsel, and probation and corrections departments. The use of a shared system can blur the distinctions between agency records and court records. Under this section, if the information is provided to the court as part of a case or judicial proceeding, the court's access rules then apply, regardless of where the information came from or the access rules of that agency. Conversely, if the information is not made part of the court record, the access policy applicable to the agency collecting the data still applies even if the information is stored in a shared database.

Section III(A)(2), "Case Record," is meant to be all inclusive of information that is provided to, or made available to, the court that relates to a judicial proceeding. The term "judicial proceeding" is used because there may not be a court case in every situation. The definition is not limited to information "filed" with the court or "made part of the court record" because some types of information the court needs to make a fully informed decision might not be "filed" or technically part of the court record. The language is, therefore, written to include information delivered to, or "lodged" with, the court, even if it is not "filed." An example is a complaint accompanying a motion to waive the filing fee based on indigence. The definition is also intended to include exhibits offered in hearings or trials, even if not admitted into evidence.

The definition includes all information used by a court to make its decision, even if an appellate court subsequently rules that the information should not have been considered or was not relevant to the judicial decision made.

The language is intended to include within its scope materials that are submitted to the court, but upon which a court did not act because the matter was withdrawn or the case was resolved. Once relevant material has been submitted to the court, it does not become inaccessible because the court did not, in the end, act on the information in the materials because the parties resolved the issue without a court decision.

The definition is written to cover any information that relates to a judicial proceeding generated by the court itself, whether through the court administrator's personnel or the clerk's office personnel. This definition applies to proceedings conducted by temporary judges or referees hearing cases in an official capacity. This includes two categories of information. One category includes documents, such as notices, minutes, orders, and judgments, which become part of the court record. The second category includes information that is gathered, generated, or kept for the purpose of managing the court's cases. This information might never be in a document; it might only exist as information in a field of a database such as a case management system, an automated register of actions, or an index of cases or parties.

Another set of items included within the definition is the official record of the proceedings, whether it is notes and transcripts generated by a court reporter of what transpired at a hearing, or an audio or video recording (analog or digital) of the proceeding. Public Access to these materials shall be granted at the court's discretion under Section IX(A), and information that would otherwise be confidential, but is included within these materials because it was disclosed in open court, is not required to be redacted under Section VII. Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-13-501 et seq., court reporters are required to create transcripts only at the request of either party or the judge. The fees for creation of the transcript are set out in Ark. Code Ann. § 16-13-506. This order attempts to retain the common-law framework for access to court reporters' materials, but recognizes that technological changes such as automated electronic transcription and audio and video streaming over the Internet may result in increased availability of these materials without unduly burdening the ongoing business of the judiciary. Administrative Order Number 6 governs broadcasting, recording or photographing in the courtroom.

Section III(A)(3) defines "Administrative Record." The definition of "court record" includes some information and records maintained by the court and clerk of court that is related to the management and administration of the court or the clerk's office. Examples of this category of information include: internal court policies, memoranda and correspondence, court budget and fiscal records, and other routinely produced administrative records, memos and reports, and meeting minutes.

This subsection makes it clear that the order applies only to information related to the judicial branch. Some information maintained by clerks of court is not a court record, nor is the court responsible for its collection, maintenance, or accessibility. Land records and voter records are examples of information that do not pertain to the administration of the judicial branch of government.

An administrative record might or might not be related to a particular case. That is to say, an administrative record may relate to a particular case and therefore be a case record also. For example, the application of a judicial official for reimbursement for expenses incurred in the course of administering justice in a particular case is both an administrative record and a case record. A record with such dual character may be subject to public disclosure in either capacity; inversely, the record is excluded from public access only if it qualifies for exclusion in both capacities. For this reason, a judicial official who creates administrative records should take care to avoid including the sort of information that may be excluded from public access to case records and that is not essential to the administrative purpose of the record.

Section III(A)(6) defines "public access" very broadly. The language implies that access is not conditioned on the reason access is requested or on prior permission being granted by the court. Access is defined to include the ability to obtain a copy of the information, not just inspect it. The section does not address the form of the copy, as there are numerous forms the copy could take, and more will probably become possible as technology continues to evolve.

A minimum inspection of the court record can be done at the courthouse where the record is maintained. It can also be done in any other manner determined by the court that serves the principles and interests specified in section I of this order. The inspection can be of the physical record or an electronic version of the court record. Access may be over the counter, by fax, by regular mail, by e-mail or by courier. The section does not preclude the court from making inspection possible via electronic means at other sites, or remotely. It also permits a court to satisfy the request to inspect by providing a printed report, computer disk, tape or other storage medium containing the information requested from the court record.

The section implies an equality of the ability to "inspect and obtain a copy" across the public. Implementing this equality will require the court to address several sources of inequality of access. Some people have physical impairments that prevent them from using the form of access available to most of the public. Another problem has to do with the existence of a "digital divide" regarding access to information in electronic form. The court should provide equivalent access to those who do not have the necessary electronic equipment to obtain access. Finally, there is the issue of the format of electronic information and whether it is equally accessible to all computer platforms and operating systems. The court should make electronic information equally available, regardless of the computer used to access the information (in other words, in a manner that is hardware and software independent).

Another aspect of access is the need to redact restricted information in documents before allowing access to the balance of the document. In some circumstances this may be a quite costly. Lack of, or insufficient, resources may present the court with an awkward choice of deciding between funding normal operations and funding activities related to access to court records. As technology improves it is becoming easier to develop software that allows redaction of pieces of information in documents in electronic form based on "tags" (such as XML tags) accompanying the information. When software to include such tags in documents becomes available, and court systems acquire the capability to use the tags, redaction will become more feasible, allowing the balance of a document to be accessible with little effort on the part of the court.

The objective of section III(A)(7) defining "remote access" is to describe a means of access that is technology neutral that is used to distinguish means of access for different types of information. The term is used in section V regarding information that should be remotely accessible. The key elements are that: 1) the access is electronic, 2) the electronic form of the access allows searching of records, as well as viewing and making an electronic copy of the information, 3) a person is not required to visit the courthouse to access the record, and 4) no assistance of court or clerk of court staff is needed to gain access (other than staff maintaining the information technology systems).

This definition is independent of any particular technology or means of access. Remote access may be accomplished electronically by any one or more of a number of existing technologies, including dedicated terminal, kiosk, dial-in service, or Internet site. Attaching electronic copies of information to e-mails, and mailing or faxing copies of documents in response to a letter or phone request for information would not constitute remote access under this definition.

In section III(A)(8), the breadth of the definition of "in electronic form" makes clear that this order applies to information that is available in any type of electronic form. The point of this section is to define what "in electronic form" means, not to define whether electronic information can be accessed or how it is accessed. This subsection refers to electronic versions of textual documents (for example documents produced on a word processor, or stored in some other text format such as PDF format), and pictures, charts, or other graphical representations of information (for example, graphics files, spreadsheet files, etc.).

A document might be electronically available as an image of a paper document produced by scanning, or another imaging technique (but not filming or microfilming). This document can be viewed on a screen and it appears as a readable document, but it is not searchable without the aid of OCR (optical character recognition) applications that translate the image into a searchable text format.

An electronic image may also be one produced of a document or other object through the use of a digital camera, for example in a courtroom as part of an evidence presentation system.

Courts are increasingly using case management systems, data warehouses or similar tools to maintain data about cases and court activities. This order applies equally to this information even though it is not produced or available in paper format unless a report containing the information is generated. This section also covers files created for, and transmitted through, an electronic filing system for court documents.

Evidence can be in the form of audio or videotapes of testimony or events. In addition audio and video recording (ER - electronic recording) and computer-aided transcription systems (CAT) using court reporters are increasingly being used to capture the verbatim record of court hearings and trials. In the future real-time video streaming of trials or other proceedings is a possibility. Because this information is in electronic form, it would fall within this definition.

Section III(A)(10) recognizes that compiled information is different from case-by-case access because it involves information from more than one case. Compiled information is different from bulk access in that it involves only some of the information from some cases and the information has been reformulated or aggregated; it is not just a copy of all the information in the court's records. Compiled information involves the creation of a new court record. In order to provide compiled information, a court generally must write a computer program to select the specific cases or information sought in the request, or otherwise use court resources to identify, gather, and copy the information.

Generating compiled data may require court resources and generating the compiled information may compete with the normal operations of the court for resources, which may be a reason for the court not to compile the information. It may be less costly for the court and less of an impact on the court to, instead, provide bulk distribution of the requested information, and let the requestor, rather than the court, compile the information.

The interchangeable definitions of "confidential" and "sealed" in section III(A)(11)-(14) recognize that in some circumstances the court is prohibited from disclosing the contents of a court record, and in some circumstances the court is prohibited from disclosing the very existence of a court record. For purposes of this order, the definition of "protective order" has the same meaning as found in the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure, i.e., the usual means by which a court designates a court record or parts of a record as confidential or sealed, for example, to protect a trade secret that includes information necessary to adjudication, but which would be harmful to the litigant if disclosed to the public. Also, this order itself provides that certain information in court records is "confidential," such as a litigant's personal bank account number, section VII(A)(5). The definitions of "confidential" and "sealed" recognize, however, that this order and other laws may provide limited access to confidential information. For example, consistently with section II, attorneys typically may access un-redacted records in cases on which they are attorneys of record.

Redactions from a publicly disclosed court record to protect sealed content are ordinarily indicated in the disclosure. However, the definitions of "confidential" and "sealed" recognize that in some instances, as provided by court order or by law, the court is prohibited from disclosing even the existence of a court record. For example, when a court record is "expunged," as defined in section III(A)(14) and pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-90-901, et seq. neither the existence of nor the contents of the records may be disclosed. In some cases, expunge also means the physical destruction of court records in juvenile cases pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-309. In such cases, because physical destruction of the records in electronic form would be impractical, such records should be redacted to eliminate the ability to identify the juvenile while preserving sufficient information regarding the court's actions for statistical and historic purposes.

The Court recognizes that for public policy reasons, such as to assist first-time offenders to remain productive members of society, it is sometimes necessary to conceal not only the contents of court records, but also the very existence of them from the general public. Expungement is not the only means by which a record may be sealed and made confidential as against disclosure of its very existence; for example, such confidentiality is afforded to adoption records by Ark. Code Ann. §§ 9-9-201, et seq. However, this order should not be construed to authorize the suppression of court records absent authorization by duly promulgated judicial rule or by duly enacted legislation. Cf. section IV(C).

The definition of "custodian" in section III(A)(16) recognizes that technology decreases the relevance of the physical location of records in electronic form. Court records might be stored remotely from the court in order to increase access, to provide greater security, to prevent loss in case of disaster, or to share resources with other agencies. However, that the records in electronic form are not physically located within a structure housing the court neither reduces the responsibility of the court and clerk for the content of the records, nor gives to the person holding the records for the purposes of storage, safekeeping, or data processing for the court the authority to disseminate the records.

Section IV. Commentary

The objective of this section is to make clear that this order applies to information in the court record regardless of the manner in which the information was created, collected or submitted to the court. Application of this order is not affected by the means of storage, manner of presentation or the form in which information is maintained. To support the general principle of open access, the application of the rule is independent of the technology or the format of the information.

Subsection (A) states the general premise that information in the court record will be publicly accessible unless access is specifically prohibited. The provision does not require any particular level of access, nor does it require a court to provide access in any particular form, for example, publishing court records in electronic form on a web site or dial-in database.

Subsection (C) provides a way for the public to know that information exists even though public access to the information itself is prohibited. This allows a member of the public to request access to the restricted record under section IX, which they would not know to do if the existence of the restricted information was not known.

However, the Court recognizes that for public policy reasons, such as to assist first-time offenders to remain productive members of society, it is sometimes necessary to conceal not only the contents of court records, but also the very existence of them from the general public. For example, Ark. Code Ann. § 16-90-903 limits the disclosure of the existence of certain expunged records. Section IV(C) accommodates this necessity, but should not be construed to authorize the suppression of court records absent authorization by duly promulgated judicial rule or by duly enacted legislation.

Section V. Commentary

This order does not impose an affirmative obligation to preserve information or data, or to transform information or data received into a format or medium that is not otherwise routinely maintained by the court. While this section encourages courts to make the designated information available to the public through remote access, this is not required, even if the information already exists in an electronic format.

Several types of information in court records have traditionally been given wider public distribution than merely making them publicly accessible at the courthouse. Typical examples are listed in this section. Often this information is regularly published in newspapers, particularly legal papers. Many of the first automated case management systems included a capability to make this information available electronically, at least on computer terminals in the courthouse, or through dial-up connections. Similarly, courts have long prepared registers of actions that indicate for each case what documents or other materials have been filed in the case. Again, early case management systems often automated this function. The summary or general nature of the information is such that there is little risk of harm to an individual through unwarranted invasion of privacy or proprietary business interests. This section acknowledges and encourages this public distribution practice by making these records presumptively accessible remotely, particularly if they are in electronic form. When a court begins to make information available remotely, they are encouraged to start with the categories of information identified in this list.

While not every court, or every automated system, is capable of providing this type of access, courts are encouraged to develop the capability to do so. The listing of information that should be made remotely available in no way is intended to imply that other information should not be made remotely available. Some court automated systems may also make more information available remotely to litigants and their lawyers than is available to the public.

Making certain types of information remotely accessible allows the court to make cost effective use of public resources provided for its operation. If the information is not available, someone requesting the information will have to call the court or come down to the courthouse and request the information. Public resources will be consumed with court staff locating case files containing the record or information, providing it to the requestor, and returning the case file to the shelf. If the requestor can obtain the information remotely, without involvement of court staff, there will be less use of court resources.

In implementing this section a court should be mindful about what specific pieces of information are appropriately remotely accessible. Care should be taken that the release of information is consistent with all provisions of the access policy, especially regarding personal identification information. For example, the information remotely accessible should not include information presumptively excluded from public access pursuant to section VII, or prohibited from public access by court order. An example of calendar information that may not by accessible by law is that relating to juvenile cases, adoptions, and mental health cases.

Subsection (5): One role of the judiciary, in resolving disputes, is to state the respective rights, obligations and interests of the parties to the dispute. This declaration of rights, obligations and interests usually is in the form of a judgment or other type of final order. Judgments or final orders have often had greater public accessibility by court rule or statutory requirement that they be recorded in a "judgment book." One reason this is done is to simplify public access by placing all such information in one place, rather than making someone step through numerous individual case files to find them. Recognizing such practices, this order specifically encourages this information to be remotely accessible if in electronic form.

There are circumstances where information about charges and convictions in criminal cases can change over time, which could mean copies of such listings derived from court records can become inaccurate unless updated. For example, a defendant may be charged with a felony, but the charge may be dismissed, or modified or reduced to a misdemeanor when the case is concluded. In other circumstances a felony conviction may be reduced to a misdemeanor conviction if the defendant successfully completes probation. These types of circumstances suggest that there be a disclaimer associated with such information, and that education about these possibilities be provided to litigants and the public.

Section VI. Commentary

In the past, court information other than that required to be reported to the Administrative Office of the Courts, was available only directly from the courts. In 2001, the Arkansas Court Automation Project began, with its long-term goal to provide a centralized case management system for all courts in the State of Arkansas. This project is the foundation to provide statewide electronic filing and document imaging for the courts. As courts go online with the new system, the public will have a more convenient central location from which to request court records.

Subsection (A) of this rule requires that requests for bulk distribution or compiled information stored on AOC computers be submitted to the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts or other designee of the Court. Otherwise requests should be submitted to the court or court agency having jurisdiction over the records. The AOC is required to maintain a description of court records in order to assist requesters in determining where to send their requests.

Prior to the 2012 amendment, section (VI) provided a two-track system for requesting bulk and compiled records. The system proved to be unworkable in practice, so the 2012 amendment separated and simplified the process for requesting bulk and compiled data.

Section (VI)(B) provides the process for filling compiled records requests. The process recognizes the increased likelihood that requested data is stored on computers, and that to fulfill the requests it is more likely that a computer programmer is required to isolate, analyze and compile the requested information into a desired format. Although section (VI)(B)(2)(a) permits charging a fee for personnel time exceeding one hour, and section (VI)(B)(2)(b) may require paying the fee in advance, section (VI)(B)(2)(c) permits waiver of fees for personnel time if it is in the public interest to provide the compilation at no cost.

Section (VI)(B)(3) recognizes that requesters may require information about cases that are confidential but do not require the confidential information in the cases. For example, researchers considering the efficacy of the juvenile justice system may be interested in age, race, geographic area, and gender of participants in the system relative to the outcomes in those cases. Fulfilling these requests can be completed without disclosing the identification of the individuals.

Section (VI)(B)(4) provides that account numbers, and credit card numbers, full social security numbers and driver license numbers will never be provided in compiled records requests; however, the last four digits of SSN and driver license numbers may be provided in compilations.

Section (VI)(B)(5) provides the limited circumstances under which compiled records will be provided where the request includes information about specific individuals. Names, addresses, and dates of birth will only be provided in compiled form when the requester declares under penalty of perjury that identification of individuals is essential to the inquiry and that the request is for a scholarly, journalistic, political, governmental, research, evaluation, or statistical purpose. Because of the sensitive nature of such compilations, a license agreement governing acceptable use of the records must be provided with the request. Nevertheless the license agreement may be waived when the information is provided to a state agency. Such exchanges of information, especially between criminal justice agencies, are typically managed by a separate interagency agreement and exchanges between state and local agencies are managed by intergovernmental agreement.

Section (VI)(C) contemplates that most bulk records requests will be filled by licensed subscription to bulk databases of otherwise public information. To protect the privacy of individuals while simultaneously promoting access to public information the license agreement will provide the terms for receipt and update of the bulk data. Recipients of bulk data are required to purge records that become confidential within 24 hours of receiving notice that the records have become confidential. By requiring that the recipients maintain the currency of the bulk data, the risk of downstream disclosure of information which became confidential subsequent to its initial disclosure is significantly reduced. The 2012 amendment to section (VI) eliminates the inquiry into the purpose of the request for bulk records and instead uses the licensing agreement and the cost of participation to balance the privacy and public access provisions of Administrative Order No. 19.

 

Section VII. Commentary

Subsection (A)(1) Federal Law: There are several types of information that are commonly but possibly incorrectly, considered to be protected from public disclosure by federal law. Although there may be restrictions on federal agencies disclosing Social Security numbers, they may not apply to state or local agencies such as courts or clerks of courts. While federal law prohibits disclosure of tax returns by federal agencies or employees, this prohibition may not extend to disclosure by others. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and regulations adopted pursuant to it limit disclosure of certain health related information. Whether the limitation extends to state court records is not clear. There are also federal restrictions regarding information in alcohol and drug abuse patient records and requiring confidentiality of information acquired by drug court programs. This order does not supersede any federal law or regulation requiring privacy or non-disclosure of information.

In addition to deliberative material excluded under this order, a court may exclude from public access materials generated or created by a court reporter with the exception of the official transcript.

This Court recognizes that "[a] trial court has the inherent authority to protect the integrity of the court in actions pending before it and may issue appropriate protective orders that would provide FOIA exemption under Section 25-19-105(b)(8)." See City of Fayetteville v. Edmark, 304 Ark. 179, 191 (1990). Rule 26(c) of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure further recognizes that "the court in which the action is pending may make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense."

Subsection (A)(2) clarifies that this order does not supersede any Arkansas law requiring privacy or non-disclosure of information in court records. The following is a non-exhaustive list of Arkansas Code Annotated sections regarding confidentiality of records whose confidentiality may extend to the records even if they become court records:

(a) adoption records as provided in the Revised Uniform Adoption Act, as amended, Ark. Code Ann. §§ 9-9-201, et seq.;

(b) records relating to Human Immunodeficiency Virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-82-101 et. seq.;

(c) records relating to child abuse not admitted into evidence as part of a public proceeding, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §§ 12-12-501, et seq.;

(d) records relating to drug tests conducted pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 11-14-101, et seq. except as provided by Ark. Code Ann. § 11-14-109;

(e) records of grand jury minutes, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(b)(4);

(f) records of juvenile proceedings, pursuant to Ark. Code § 9-27-309;

(g) the master list of jurors' names and addresses, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-32-103;

(h) addresses and phone numbers of prospective jurors, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-33-101;

(i) indictment against any person not in actual confinement, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-85-408;

(j) home or business address of petitioner for domestic order of protection if omitted by petitioner, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 9-15-203;

(k) records or writings made at dispute resolution proceedings, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-7-206;

(l) information related to defendant's attendance, attitude, participation, and results of drug screens when participating in a pre- or post-trial treatment program for drug abuse pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-98-201, even though defendant may have executed a consent for a limited release of confidential information regarding treatment permitting the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney access to the information.

Subsection (B) presumes that administrative records will be governed by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, but recognizes that some public record exclusions are codified outside of the Act and that courts have inherent authority to restrict access to court records.

Freedom of Information Act exemptions are only exemptions to the enclosing act. The reference to the Arkansas Code Annotated should not be construed as applying FOIA exemptions to the courts. They may provide guidance upon a motion for a protective order, but should not be construed to be general exemptions beyond their context.

Section VIII. Commentary

This section is intended to address those extraordinary circumstances in which confidential information or information which is otherwise excluded from public access is to be included in a release of information. In some circumstances, the nature of the information contained in a record and the restrictions placed on the accessibility of the information contained in that record may be governed by federal or state law. This section is not intended to modify or overrule any federal or state law governing such records or the process for releasing information.

Information excluded from public access that is sought in a request for bulk or compiled records is governed by section (VI) of this order.

Section IX. Commentary

Subsection (A) is intended to retain the common-law framework with respect to public access to court records at the courthouse. The section recognizes that access to trial exhibits and trial transcript source materials not filed with the court clerk is subject to the discretion of the court. This section is not intended to enhance, extend, or diminish the discretion of the court with respect to access to exhibits and transcript source materials.

This section does not preclude or require "after hours" access to court records in electronic form. Courts are encouraged to provide access to records in electronic form beyond the hours access is available at the courthouse, however, it is not the intent of this order to compel such additional access.

Section X. Commentary

This section is intended to apply when information technology services are provided to a court by an agency outside the judicial branch, or by outsourcing of court information technology services to non-governmental entities. Implicit in this order is the concept that all court records are under the authority of the judiciary, and that the judiciary has the responsibility to ensure public access to court records and to restrict access where appropriate. This applies as well to court records maintained in systems operated by any non-judicial governmental department or agency.

Section XI. Commentary

The Supreme Court recognizes that it is not within its constitutional authority to either establish or provide immunity for civil or criminal liability based on violations of this order. The intent of this section is to make clear that absent a statutory or common-law basis for civil or criminal liability, violation of this order alone is insufficient to establish or deny liability for violating the order. Neither does this section preclude the possibility that violation of this order may be used as evidence of negligence or misconduct that resulted in a statutory or common law claim for civil or criminal liability.

History Text: 

History. Adopted October 23, 2008, effective January 1, 2009.

Associated Court Rules: 
Administrative Orders