Electronic filing bill remains top GFAF legislative concern; could erode public access to court records

Accessing court records could take longer and cost more if an electronic-filing measure making its way through the Georgia General Assembly passes in its current form. House Bill 15 tops the “negative” bills detailed in our updated Legislative Watch.

The bill requires electronic filing of most civil court records, but it contains no provision for protecting public access to such filings in a timely way — either at the courthouse or electronically.

Instead, it states that records are not subject to disclosure until physically accepted by a clerk – a provision that could delay access to public records.

In addition, the bill does not include a requirement that electronically filed records be available for viewing at the courthouse, something judicial rules now require as a minimum standard for electronic filing. The absence of this requirement could result in a charge for simply viewing electronic records, something that would be unprecedented in Georgia.

House Bill 15 should be modified to include minimum standards for electronic filing adopted by the Judicial Council of Georgia in 2014 and embraced by the Georgia Supreme Court. Those rules state that electronic documents must be publicly accessible upon filing for review at no charge on a public access terminal available at the courthouse during regular business hours.

Read our updated Legislative Watch to find out more about House Bill 15, including its sponsors, and get details on other proposals that survived crossover day in the Georgia General Assembly and their effects  — negative and positive — on the openness and transparency of government in Georgia.