This week in public records: Illinois – Nevada – Oklahoma – Colorado – Delaware

If all goes according to current plans, by January 2008 Cook County, Illinois will become one of the first counties in the country to digitize vital records and make them available online. The birth, death and marriage records to be made available are not for recent events. The genealogical records include birth certificates that are at least 75 years old, marriage certificates more than 50 years old, and death certificates more than 20 years old.

A recommendation by the Nevada Supreme Court Commission on Preservation, Access and Sealing of Court Records would tighten the regulations on sealing court records. The current standard allows judges to seal records upon request. The commission policy would require a compelling reason for sealing court records and would authorize any member of the public to request a sealed record be opened. Reported in the Las Vegas Sun

Judges in Oklahoma counties are holding closed proceedings of special drug and mental health courts, even though they are not required to be closed. Judges are citing federal law which mandates health records be kept confidential.

The Colorado Supreme Court has instituted a new rule that delays the fulfillment of court record requests for up to 3 days, ostensibly to redact personal information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account numbers and other personal-identification numbers, such as those on passports or student IDs. This is another instance of the current trend in government to give supremacy to personal privacy over the public’s right to know the activities of its government.

The Delaware Attorney General cannot oppose state agencies which decline public records requests, even when they do so in violation of the law. The News Journal sought salary information for employees of the Delaware Psychiatric Center. The Department of Health and Social Services denied the request, then the newspaper appealed to the Attorney General, who declined to take enforcement action.

The Delaware Psychiatric Center is an agency of state government and so the Department of Justice is precluded by statute from investigating any violations of the Freedom of Information Act alleged to have been committed by the Delaware Psychiatric Center.

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