Requesting electronic trial court records

Requesting electronic trial court records

Q: I am trying to access a criminal court’s calendar for a 3 month period of time in 2004. Is there is a different public records request when trying to access information from the courts?

A: Pursuant to the California Rules of Court regarding public access to electronic trial court records, you can request bulk distribution of a California Superior Court’s electronic calendar, register of actions, and index for criminal trial court cases. (Cal. Rule of Court 2073(g).) Please note, however, that California Rule of Court Rule 2073 does not require the Superior Courts to provide this information (as indicated by the use of the word “may”) because it provides as follows:

* A court may provide bulk distribution of only its electronic calendar, register of actions, and index. “Bulk distribution” means distribution of all, or a significant subset, of the court’s electronic records.

The electronic court calendar must include the date of court calendar, the time of calendared event, court department number, case number, and case title. Cal. Rules of Court 2077(b)(1). The register of actions is a “summary of every proceeding in a case” and must include information such as the date the case was commenced, case number, case type, case title (unless made confidential by law), party names (unless made confidential by law), party type, date of each activity, and description of each activity. Cal. Gov’t Code section 69845; Cal. Rule of Court 2077(b)(3). Please be aware that certain information is required to be excluded from court calendars, indexes, and registers of action, such as social security numbers, arrest and search warrant information, victim and witness information, and other personal information. Cal. Rule of Court 2077(c). Under California Rule of Court 2076, the court may impose fees for the cost of providing public access to electronic records.You may also simply access information regarding criminal calendars through public computer terminals at the courthouse.

California Rule of Court 2073(b) provides that “[t]o the extent it is feasible to do so, the court must maintain court calendars, indexes, and registers of actions available to the public by electronic means.” “To the extent it is feasible” means that the court is required to provide electronic access to the extent the court determines that it has the resources and technical capacity to do so. Cal. Rule of Court 2073(d). “Electronic access” means computer access to court records available to the public through both public terminals at the courthouse and remotely. Cal. Rule of Court 2072.If the information you seek is not available electronically pursuant to the California Rules of Court discussed above and is comprised of information regarding and derived from court records and proceedings that are subject to the public’s right of access, then your alternative is to request them on the grounds that they are court records that must be made available for inspection and copying by the public under the First Amendment and California law.

With respect to criminal court records in particular, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and California Law give the public a right to obtain access to records of criminal court proceedings. See NBC Subsidiary (KNBC-TV), Inc. v. Superior Court, 20 Cal. 4th 1178 (1999); Associated Press v. United States Dist. Court, 705 F.2d 1143 (1983). The court’s calendar is derived from criminal court records and proceedings and should be subject to the public’s right of access.