Foundation calls on lawmakers to protect Georgians’ access to electronically filed court records

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is calling on state Senate Judiciary Committee members meeting today to modify an electronic-filing bill to better protect public access to court records.

In its current form, House Bill 15 could result in a fee for simply viewing court records — something that would be unprecedented in Georgia. The Senate Judiciary Committee meets at 4 p.m. today to consider the bill.

In a March 15 letter to committee members, foundation Executive Director Hollie Manheimer outlined problems in the proposed legislation and suggested modifications. The bill currently would require 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 free of charge at the courthouse upon filing, something judicial rules now require as a minimum standard for electronic filing.