Public records debate heats up

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(Host) A bill in the Legislature that would prohibit court records from being posted online is reopening debate about Vermont’s overall public records law.

Allen Gilbert of the American Civil Liberties Union says lawmakers should update the law and eliminate inconsistencies.

(Gilbert) “Somebody hasn’t really thought through a lot of these things. And increasingly I think the Legislature is stumbling over issues of privacy, issues of public access.”

(Host) Gilbert says he doesn’t see any reason that the state should make a distinction between paper and electronic records.

He says once the state decides records should be open, they should be equally available in all formats.

Vermont Law School Professor Ken Kreiling has served on the Vermont Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Public Records.

He says all public access questions in state government should be decided at the same time.

(Kreiling) “It seems to me that what we need here is a fresh look. The public records act dates to 1975. … And what you have here is a real patchwork solution, which is focusing in on only two small parts of a much larger puzzle.”

(Host) The Senate already has approved the bill to close court records that could be accessed via the Internet. That bill is now pending in the House.

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