This week in public records – Texas – Arizona

Public reaction to inmate data posted by a Texas county has lead the agency to remove it.

Less than three weeks after information about Tarrant County Jail inmates became available online, county officials agreed Tuesday to cut back on the project because of complaints that photographs and old arrest information should not be so easily accessible to the public.

By now you’re probably aware that there’s no such animal as a thorough court records check, even in an individual county. Why? Because there are hidden dockets that are not accessible to the public and are not recorded in the court index of cases. Also, some records are deemed confidential, not just juvenile matters but divorce and other civil cases.

Take a look at the Pima County, Arizona Confidential Sensitive Data Form. This is the document on which a filer enters all personal and financial information of case parties. It’s then sealed, like closed adoption records, only available by court order. If the filer neglects to put the personal information on the confidential form, the entire document can be sealed. And how likely is it that a judge will expose the file to your light of day? An Arizona attorney discovered that a 1997 divorce file had been sealed. No reason was given. The judge who reveiwed the file in response to the attorney’s request to have it opened, denied access, according to the Tucson Citizen.

Judge John Davis ruled in Pima County Superior Court that, “It is presumed that court records should be open and available to the public.”

But Davis, after inspecting the file, did not order the divorce case opened. He wrote that Kirschner already had obtained the information he needed and there was nothing else of use to him in the file.

“Little or no impact on the public or the public’s broader constitutional rights is involved,” Davis wrote.

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