Open Records

Records Proposal Pulled After Protests

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A controversial proposal to limit access to criminal records to make it easier for convicts to find jobs and housing is being withdrawn by the entities that intended to bring it before the ABA’s policymaking body next week.

ABA’s Commission on Effective Judicial Sanctions and the Criminal Justice Section were going to ask the ABA to take a stand in favor of legislation that would limit public access to criminal conviction records and make confidential many of the criminal records that are now readily available under laws of some states.

Staff for the House of Delegates Committee on Rules and Calendar confirmed Saturday that the recommendation is being withdrawn. The House of Delegates meets on Monday and Tuesday during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The move comes after press advocacy groups protested the recommendation, with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press saying such legislation “would roll back 40 years of First Amendment jurisprudence creating a presumption of openness in criminal proceedings, violate state open records laws and eliminate the ability of the public and press to act as watchdogs of the criminal justice system.”

The Blog of Legal Times reported that business groups also began to oppose the proposal because it would limit information needed for employment and housing background checks.

With ABA Journal assistant managing editor James Podgers contributing from San Francisco.

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