This week in public records – Virginia – California – Iowa – Mississippi

The Virgina legislature is entertaining bills that would alter public records.

For example, there’s a bill to remove Social Security numbers from court documents and land records. Another would remove Social Security numbers from voter records before those records are sold to anyone in another state. A third just makes it generally illegal to make publicly available someone else’s Social Security number, even if the number was gotten from public documents.

Some California police departments have had the support of judges in keeping search warrant affidavits out of court files. All this may change because of an appeals court decision.

The Superior Courts in Los Angeles and Orange counties have for years allowed police to keep the only version of the sealed affidavit they use to obtain a search warrant without filing a copy with the court, a practice that defense attorneys said was rife with potential abuse.

The use of the procedure in Orange County began receiving attention two weeks ago, after a state appeals court ruling in a local case involving a search warrant.

Asked by a reporter, Los Angeles County Superior Court officials said this week that judges there also allowed officers to keep the sealed affidavits.

The practice was so little-known that the Los Angeles County public defenders office, with one of the largest caseloads in the country, did not learn about it until the appeals court decision.

Keeping the previous story in mind, it comes as no surprise that the First Amendment advocate, Californians Aware, has uncovered wide spread violations of the California Public Records Act by law enforcement agencies. Read the report, Public Access to Law Enforcement Information, which includes statistics and a database of audit results by agency.

Medical privacy does not have primacy over the collection of unpaid bills, according to a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling. The collection agency included an itemized medical invoice in a court filing, but that action did not breach patient privacy because it didn’t contain confidential doctor-patient communications.

Iowa Court records related to juveniles will no longer be included in the court system’s online database.

Under a new law starting this month, names of juveniles who are ten to 17 will only appear online when a case is completed and the individual has been found guilty.


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