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2012 California Rules of Court

Rule 2.503. Public access

(a) General right of access

All electronic records must be made reasonably available to the public in some form, whether in electronic or in paper form, except those that are sealed by court order or made confidential by law.

(Subd (a) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(b) Electronic access required to extent feasible

A court that maintains the following records in electronic form must provide electronic access to them, both remotely and at the courthouse, to the extent it is feasible to do so:

(1)Registers of actions (as defined in Gov. Code, § 69845), calendars, and indexes in all cases; and

(2)All records in civil cases, except those listed in (c)(1)-(9).

(Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2010; previously amended effective July 1, 2004, January 1, 2007, and January 1, 2008.)

(c) Courthouse electronic access only

A court that maintains the following records in electronic form must provide electronic access to them at the courthouse, to the extent it is feasible to do so, but may provide remote electronic access only to the records governed by (b):

(1)Records in a proceeding under the Family Code, including proceedings for dissolution, legal separation, and nullity of marriage; child and spousal support proceedings; child custody proceedings; and domestic violence prevention proceedings;

(2)Records in a juvenile court proceeding;

(3)Records in a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding;

(4)Records in a mental health proceeding;

(5)Records in a criminal proceeding;

(6)Records in a civil harassment proceeding under Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6;

(7)Records in a workplace violence prevention proceeding under Code of Civil Procedure section 527.8;

(8)Records in a private postsecondary school violence prevention proceeding under Code of Civil Procedure section 527.85;

(9)Records in an elder or dependent adult abuse prevention proceeding under Welfare and Institutions Code section 15657.03; and

(10)Records in proceedings to compromise the claims of a minor or a person with a disability.

(Subd (c) amended effective January 1, 2012; previously amended effective July 1, 2004, January 1, 2007, January 1, 2008, and January 1, 2010.)

(d) "Feasible" defined

As used in this rule, the requirement that a court provide electronic access to its electronic records "to the extent it is feasible to do so" means that a court is required to provide electronic access to the extent it determines it has the resources and technical capacity to do so.

(Subd (d) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(e) Remote electronic access allowed in extraordinary criminal cases

Notwithstanding (c)(5), the presiding judge of the court, or a judge assigned by the presiding judge, may exercise discretion, subject to (e)(1), to permit electronic access by the public to all or a portion of the public court records in an individual criminal case if (1) the number of requests for access to documents in the case is extraordinarily high and (2) responding to those requests would significantly burden the operations of the court. An individualized determination must be made in each case in which such remote electronic access is provided.

(1)In exercising discretion under (e), the judge should consider the relevant factors, such as:

(A)The privacy interests of parties, victims, witnesses, and court personnel, and the ability of the court to redact sensitive personal information;

(B)The benefits to and burdens on the parties in allowing remote electronic access, including possible impacts on jury selection; and

(C)The burdens on the court in responding to an extraordinarily high number of requests for access to documents.

(2)The court should, to the extent feasible, redact the following information from records to which it allows remote access under (e): driver license numbers; dates of birth; social security numbers; Criminal Identification and Information and National Crime Information numbers; addresses and phone numbers of parties, victims, witnesses, and court personnel; medical or psychiatric information; financial information; account numbers; and other personal identifying information. The court may order any party who files a document containing such information to provide the court with both an original unredacted version of the document for filing in the court file and a redacted version of the document for remote electronic access. No juror names or other juror identifying information may be provided by remote electronic access. This subdivision does not apply to any document in the original court file; it applies only to documents that are available by remote electronic access.

(3)Five days' notice must be provided to the parties and the public before the court makes a determination to provide remote electronic access under this rule. Notice to the public may be accomplished by posting notice on the court's Web site. Any person may file comments with the court for consideration, but no hearing is required.

(4)The court's order permitting remote electronic access must specify which court records will be available by remote electronic access and what categories of information are to be redacted. The court is not required to make findings of fact. The court's order must be posted on the court's Web site and a copy sent to the Judicial Council.

(Subd (e) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted effective January 1, 2005.)

(f) Access only on a case-by-case basis

The court may only grant electronic access to an electronic record when the record is identified by the number of the case, the caption of the case, or the name of a party, and only on a case-by-case basis. This case-by-case limitation does not apply to the court's electronic records of a calendar, register of actions, or index.

(Subd (f) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted as subd (e) effective July 1, 2002; previously relettered effective January 1, 2005.)

(g) Bulk distribution

The court may provide bulk distribution of only its electronic records of a calendar, register of actions, and index. "Bulk distribution" means distribution of all, or a significant subset, of the court's electronic records.

(Subd (g) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted as subd (f) effective July 1, 2002; previously relettered effective January 1, 2005.)

(h) Records that become inaccessible

If an electronic record to which the court has provided electronic access is made inaccessible to the public by court order or by operation of law, the court is not required to take action with respect to any copy of the record that was made by the public before the record became inaccessible.

(Subd (h) relettered effective January 1, 2005; adopted as subd (g) effective July 1, 2002.)

(i) Off-site access

Courts should encourage availability of electronic access to court records at public off-site locations.

(Subd (i) relettered effective January 1, 2005; adopted as subd (h) effective July 1, 2002.)

Rule 2.503 amended effective January 1, 2012; adopted as rule 2073 effective July 1, 2002; previously amended and renumbered effective January 1, 2007; previously amended effective July 1, 2004, January 1, 2005, January 1, 2008, and January 1, 2010.

Advisory Committee Comment

The rule allows a level of access by the public to all electronic records that is at least equivalent to the access that is available for paper records and, for some types of records, is much greater. At the same time, it seeks to protect legitimate privacy concerns.

Subdivision (c). This subdivision excludes certain records (those other than the register, calendar, and indexes) in specified types of cases (notably criminal, juvenile, and family court matters) from remote electronic access. The committee recognized that while these case records are public records and should remain available at the courthouse, either in paper or electronic form, they often contain sensitive personal information. The court should not publish that information over the Internet. However, the committee also recognized that the use of the Internet may be appropriate in certain criminal cases of extraordinary public interest where information regarding a case will be widely disseminated through the media. In such cases, posting of selected nonconfidential court records, redacted where necessary to protect the privacy of the participants, may provide more timely and accurate information regarding the court proceedings, and may relieve substantial burdens on court staff in responding to individual requests for documents and information. Thus, under subdivision (e), if the presiding judge makes individualized determinations in a specific case, certain records in criminal cases may be made available over the Internet.

Subdivisions (f) (g). These subdivisions limit electronic access to records (other than the register, calendars, or indexes) to a case-by-case basis and prohibit bulk distribution of those records. These limitations are based on the qualitative difference between obtaining information from a specific case file and obtaining bulk information that may be manipulated to compile personal information culled from any document, paper, or exhibit filed in a lawsuit. This type of aggregate information may be exploited for commercial or other purposes unrelated to the operations of the courts, at the expense of privacy rights of individuals.

Courts must send a copy of the order permitting remote electronic access in extraordinary criminal cases to: Secretariat, Executive Office Programs Division, Administrative Office of the Courts, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102-3688 or secretariat@jud.ca.gov.

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