State

Plan would spend up to $15M to digitize state court docs but limit access online

PORTLAND, Maine — The judicial committee figuring out how to finally digitize Maine court records has recommended spending up to $15 million on a system that would block the public from accessing most court documents online, even though they are public and available at courthouses.

Lawyers and people with cases before the courts would be able to look at their own case files over the internet but the general public would still have to walk into a courthouse to see these public documents, under the plan released Tuesday by the Transparency and Privacy Task Force.

The committee was convened after Maine’s top judge lobbied lawmakers for millions of dollars to bring the courts into the digital age, telling the Legislature last winter that “the public deserves electronic access to its government.”

But its recommendations have attracted criticism from open government advocates, who say that for most Mainers the plan would make court files no more accessible than they were in the 19th century.

This “proposal would require the public to travel to a courthouse to obtain any of the substantive documents in a case, just the same as if it were 1820,” Mal Leary, a task force member, Maine Public reporter and president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, wrote in dissent accompanying the final report. The Bangor Daily News shares content with Maine Public.

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Plan would spend up to $15M to digitize state court docs but limit access online,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Jake Bleiberg, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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