BRADENTON — The Florida Supreme Court has approved the “Manatee Model” of Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore as the statewide standard for public access to online court records. The model will be the minimum threshold in terms of how restrictive a Florida Clerk of the Court's system must be. Shore has been working diligently to come up with an acceptable and secure platform to end the moratorium on providing anonymous public access to records online that was enacted in 2004.
|Clerk of the Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore|
On March 19, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, Ricky Polston, signed Administrative Order No. AOSC14-19, which lifts the 10-year moratorium. The order also states that any Florida Clerk of Court who wants to provide online access to court records 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.
“In 2004, in a response to identity theft and terrorist threats, the Florida Supreme Court issued a moratorium that ended access to court documents over a publicly available website,” said Shore in a release announcing the decision. “Since that time, I have been working diligently with the Court to strike a balance between the public’s right to access public information in the most efficient and cost-effective manner and our responsibility to safeguard confidential, private information.”
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court selected Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Office to be the sole test site for allowing phased access to non-confidential court records over a subscriber-based web site. In the first phase of this pilot project, secured access to court records and images was granted to customers who enrolled as “subscribers.” Subscribers were required to enter into a written and notarized agreement that outlined their location information and basic purpose of use.
Subscribers were also required to enter logins and passwords in order to access images. In Phase 2, secured access to non-confidential court records and images became available to public internet users; no agreement, subscription or login is required. Users see fields on court documents that have been blacked out or “redacted” as required by the Florida Supreme Court. This redaction safeguards sensitive information, such as Social Security Numbers, various types of account numbers, etc. from being viewed or obtained from court records.
In 2011, the National Center for State Courts deemed Shore’s program a success in “providing appropriate access to electronic court records while effectively protecting confidential information” (AOSC14-19). And it is Shore’s security matrix that the other 66 Florida Clerks will have to meet, at a minimum, when providing anonymous public online access.
“I cannot tell you how proud I am of this collaborative effort to ensure the public has ready access to the non-confidential information guaranteed to them by the Florida Constitution,” said Shore. “This has been a monumental undertaking with many stakeholders and evolving technologies. Through a committed effort to mutual purpose, we have all succeeded in reaching our goal.”
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