Public Record Update
April 2014
New Restrictions on Use of SSA Death Index

Effective March 26, 2014, the Social Security Administration Death Index, also known as the Death Master File (DMF), has significant restrictions to access on newer records. In a nutshell, unless the requester is certified, they cannot be provided death record information within 3 years of a subject's data of death. However, this ban does not affect death records distributed/sold/in use prior to March 26, 2014. Below are details.

The U.S. National Technical Information Service issued an interim final rule to establish a certification program under which persons may obtain immediate access to the publicly available Death Master File (DMF), pursuant to Section 203 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Act).

The Act prohibits disclosure of DMF information during the three-calendar-year period following an individual's death unless the person requesting the information has been certified under a program established by the Secretary of Commerce. This rule, which set forth temporary requirements to become a certified person, provides penalties for disclosing or using DMF information in a manner not in accordance with the Act. This rule also provides for the charging of fees for the certification program. This rule was effective on March 26, 2014. Comments are accepted and due on this interim final rule on or before 5:00 p.m. Eastern time April 25, 2014. A significant portion of this rule is below:

Section 203, ''Restriction on Access to the Death Master File'' Section 203(a) of the Act directs that the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) shall not disclose to any person information contained on the Death Master File with respect to any deceased individual at any time during the three calendar- year period beginning on the date of the individual's death, unless such person is certified under a program established under the Act. Section 203(b)(1) of the Act directs the Secretary to establish a program to certify persons who are eligible to access the information contained on the Death Master File, and to perform periodic and unscheduled audits of certified persons to determine compliance with the program.

Read the details in the Federal Register at:
www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-03-26/pdf/2014-06701.pdf
Motor Vehicle Records Fee Increase in PA

Effective April 1, 2014, several fee increases took place for records supplied by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The fee for a driving record increased from $5.00 to $8.00 on this date. This fee increase pertains to all types of driving records (3-year record, 10-year record, full history, microfilm, etc.) regardless if ordered manually or electronically. The same fee increase applies to vehicle records. The fee increased from $5.00 to $8.00 for a title history, a registration record, or a lien record.

The certification fee for any of the above records increased from $5.00 to $22.00. This means obtaining a record that is certified will now cost $30.00 instead of $10.00.

Other driver and vehicle service fees increased include the fee for a photo identification card, for a certificate of title, recording a security interest on a title, and for the obtaining a duplicate title, registration or driver's license. All of these fees increased by over 100%. The fee increase is the result of Act 89 passed on Nov 25, 2013. See:

www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/li/uconsCheck.cfm?yr=2013&sessInd=0&act=89
Significant Court Case Involving NC Court Records

In recent decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals (NCCOA) regarding Lexis Nexis Risk Data Management Inc. v. North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, the court ruled that the court records database maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is public record as defined in G.S. 132. Thus, the AOC, as the custodian of this public record database, is required to provide it upon request as a public record.

The lawsuit was initiated because the AOC decided that it would no longer provide the full electronic file to subscribers of the court record data and would provide only demographic data. This forced the subscribers, who were at the time purchasing the full file, to access a secondary source - known as the Green Screen - in order to find the case details. The Green Screen is a cumbersome system using technology from the 1970's and is much more expensive since it is based on a page-by-page search.

Since the AOC lost 0-3 in the Court of Appeals, there is no automatic right of appeal. However, the AOC did file a petition to appeal to the NC Supreme Court. It is now up to the NC Supreme Court to decide whether or not to hear that appeal.

Below are links to several well-written articles posted on the web about this decision, as well as a link to the text of the Court of Appeals' decision.

Articles:
http://canons.sog.unc.edu/?p=7549&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=databases-under-the-public-records-law
https://www.elon.edu/e-net/Article/87920
http://ncrecords.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/thoughts-on-the-lexis-nexis-decision/

Copy of Decision:
http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=30750
New Online System - Sacramento Superior Court

In early April 2014, the Sacramento Superior Court introduced a new online access system known as the Public Case Access System. For now access is free for civil, probate, criminal, family, and traffic case information. However starting July 1, name searches and document downloads will incur a fee. Searches can be performed by name, case number, or filing date.

Registration is required, even for the free access. For details and future fees, see www.saccourt.ca.gov

FL Supreme Court Lifts Ban on Access to Electronic Court Case Information

Many county level Circuit Courts offer online access to to public to view the docket index, but since 2006 there has been a ban against access to case file document and images. Also in 2006, the Florida Supreme Court selected the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court's Office to be the sole test site for phasing in different levels of access to non-confidential court records over a subscriber-based web site. This program proved to be a success.

In March 2014, the Florida Supreme Court lifted the ban and outlined their guidelines on how clerks of court can make records more readily available online, if they so choose. Administrative Order No. AOSC14-19, signed March 19, 2014, states that any Florida Clerk of Court who wants to provide online access to court records must follow the standards set forth in the Manatee Model. Clerks may choose to be more restrictive than the Manatee Model, but they may not be less so.

The new FL standards isolated 10 different user groups with specific levels tied to certain types of accessible data and security requirements. See the Access Security Matrix at: www.floridasupremecourt.org/clerk/adminorders/2014/AOSC14-19.pdf

Note that these court documents available to the general public have had elements redacted per the Florida Supreme Court. This redaction includes sensitive information such as Social Security Numbers, various types of account numbers, etc. from being viewed or obtained from court records.

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