RESOLUTION ON THE AOPC’S PROPOSAL FOR MAKING PENNSYLVANIA CRIMINAL RECORDS AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET

WHEREAS, the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts is implementing a project to make the Pennsylvania courts’ dockets available to the general public on the Internet, including criminal court records; and

WHEREAS, there is substantial likelihood that the indices of criminal court dockets will be used as “criminal records” for background checks; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvanians will lose jobs and housing and suffer other harm based on Internet dissemination of arrest records for which they were not convicted; and

WHEREAS, AOPC’s plan increases the likelihood of the incorrect attribution of criminal records to innocent persons (especially for persons with common names and for criminal identity theft victims); and

WHEREAS, state and federal studies have shown that there is an enormous rate of error (both clerical and as a result of identity theft) in criminal court and police records; and

WHEREAS, incorrect criminal court records will be posted, without procedures to correct them; and

WHEREAS, ex-offenders will face intensified discrimination because their criminal records will be much more readily accessible; and

WHEREAS, the benefits of broader access to information must be balanced with safeguards to protect against the abuse and misuse of court records.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association objects to the AOPC’s plan to make criminal court records available to the general public on the Internet without safeguards that will insure accuracy of the online records and protect the rights of those who may be affected by this project, including both those who are the actual subjects of the records and those who are incorrectly believed to be the subjects.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that among those safeguards should be a requirement that any arrests that have not ended in a conviction be removed from the Internet system within thirty (30) days following the conclusion of the case.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Bar Association supports a requirement that name, date of birth, and last four digits of the social security number be posted as identifiers in a search, so that misidentification of innocent people can be avoided.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Bar Association urges the Pennsylvania courts to create an easy process by which persons can obtain corrections of errors and corrections and removal of erroneous information resulting from criminal identity theft.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Bar Association urges the AOPC not to put the remaining counties - especially Allegheny and Philadelphia - online until those necessary changes have been made to the Internet court docket project.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chancellor or his designee is authorized to take whatever steps are necessary to communicate the views of the Philadelphia Bar Association to the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts and to take the necessary steps to effectuate this resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: OCTOBER 27, 2005