Government Relations Committee Update

By Anne McDonald, Co-Chair, LLNE GRC, and Emilie Benoit, Co-Chair, LLNE GRC

PUBLIC ACCESS TO COURT RECORDS

The Massachusetts Trial Court’s Public Access to Court Records Committee held a public hearing on June 15, 2015 to hear comments regarding public access to court records.  Newly implemented changes in the Trial Court’s online access policies have resulted in many users losing eligibility for online accounts which are now restricted to attorneys with Board of Overseers registration.

Bob DeFabrizio, President of the Association of Boston Law  Librarians , (ABLL) expressed the concerns of firm law librarians, and LLNE’s President Mindy Kent stated that providing greater access to court records would allow law librarians to provide more aid to their users, including self-represented litigants, and make it easier for court personnel to do their jobs more effectively. Mindy’s testimony was cited in a Boston Globe article on the hearing.  You may read Mindy’s  written comments submitted to the committee here.

AALL  President Holly Riccio  also submitted written comments, urging the Trial Court to provide law librarians and other users with the same level of no-fee access to court docket information that was previously available. The letter also states that many states and the United States Supreme Court are moving towards greater public access.  We thank  President Riccio and AALL’s Government Relations Office Director Emily Feltren for their support.  See the  AALL website for Holly’s comments.

MASSACHUSETTS UELMA BILL

Massachusetts UELMA bill  H. 43  was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee following a May 27th hearing  and is now in the House Ways and Means Committee.  The UELMA in Massachusetts Subcommittee of LLNE’s GRC has been spearheading this effort and will meet soon to strategize on the next steps.  The Subcommittee’s Chair Barbara Morgan  testified on behalf of LLNE . Here are some excerpts from her prepared testimony.

“As a law librarian, I am concerned about access to both current and historic Massachusetts legal material. If you visit a Massachusetts law library, you’ll find the General Laws of Massachusetts available in print. It’s easy for me to provide access by placing these books on a shelf and it’s easy for me to preserve access to past laws by keeping the older volumes. It’s also easy for someone using these volumes to tell that they’re looking at an authentic text by inspecting the title page. I don’t currently have the same ability with electronic versions of legal materials.

UELMA will ensure that if an online version is deemed official, it will guarantee the same level of trustworthiness traditionally provided by print legal publications. UELMA provides for a technology neutral, outcomes based approach that will give Massachusetts flexibility in making sure that official legal material, solely available online, will be authenticated, preserved and made permanently available to the public.” 

We thank all members of the UELMA in Massachusetts Subcommittee for their persistence and dedication.  We also thank LLNE members who reside in Massachusetts and who have supported this effort by contacting their state legislators.

The LLNE Government Relations Committee is providing this information to you to further its committee charge to keep you apprised of developments which may be of interest to you as an informed law librarian.

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