Saturday, January 9, 2010

Court Files, Court Records and Getting Them

Call this a reactionary post. Me reacting to Endangered Fathers' Different Uses Of Divorce Records with that is not so for Indiana.

Divorce records are maintained by the vital records department or in the health statistics department. Any person wishing to access these records may do so by placing a request with the concerned department holding the information. They can also obtain copies of the records which are uncertified copies if you are not one of the concerned parties in the divorce. Only concerned parties in the divorce can obtain a certified copy of the divorce certificate
No - our court records are keep by our county clerks.

No - you go to the county clerk, tell them the cause number and they get the file for you. (Excepting Marion and Hamilton Counties).

I got to say that I do not for certain about uncertified records being all a non-party can get - never had to deal with the issue.

The rest of the article raised similar problems for me. It is my standard operating procedure to give clients copies of everything. Fire and flood may get some but there should be no ordinary reason for one of my clients to need to go to the county clerk to get a copy of their file. Which is one of two reasons I have problems with this paragraph:
These records can help the individual ensure that the divorce has legally occurred. In many cases of uncontested divorces, the respondent party may not be aware of the settlement of the divorce. A divorce record helps in proving that the divorce has been finalized in the Court of Law.
Noooooooooooooooo. Here we get a Decree of Dissolution from a judge that is signed and sealed. We give it to the client. That same Decree goes out to the opposing party where there is a uncontested divorce. Also, our Chronological Case Summaries are mailed out to the parties who do not have lawyers. For all my grousing about Indiana, I cannot imagine a court system where a party is not aware of a case's end.

And in the context of Indiana, this just sounds bizarre:
When a person intends to marry again after a divorce, the divorce certificates should be provided to legally allow the person to remarry. It also helps resolve issues arising in the care of children born out of the marriage where divorce has taken place. A woman intending to change her name that carries the surname of the ex-husband can do so by providing these records.
If those problems were not enough to drive you crazy, a larger one looms. The Indiana Law Blog published Ind. Courts - "Indiana courts moving toward unified records system: But private firm pushes competing setup" Part I and here are what seem the choice bits:

That (excluding the "Part I") is the headline to a lengthy story today by Harold J. Adams of the Louisville Courier Journal. It begins:

After nine years and $51million spent, Indiana is progressing toward a statewide computer system that may eventually connect the records of all the state's 401 courts to each other, other state agencies and the public.

That would allow anyone with Internet access to check the history and status of any court case anywhere in the state. It would also give judges and attorneys a quick way to determine whether someone in their local court has had a role in other cases elsewhere.

But the move toward a single system isn't without its wrinkles. Even though the state system is free to counties, another vendor already handles court records for more than half of Indiana's 92 counties and is fighting to keep that business — and add more. * * *

Indiana's Odyssey system is run by the Indiana Supreme Court through the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee, known as JTAC and headed by Sullivan. The state wants to replace what Sullivan says is a mishmash of 23 different electronic case management systems in use across the state with a single, unified system.

“I and the members of our court — and I think most Indiana judges — are of the view that we would be much better off if all Indiana courts were using the same case management system,” Sullivan said. * * *

But while some counties are eager to connect to Odyssey, others have declared they won't participate.

Kosciusko County Clerk Jason McSherry wants no part of the statewide system.

“From a taxpayer standpoint, I don't have a lot of faith in anything the state or government runs,” McSherry said. “I think they ought to let the private sector take care of that.”

(Er, has no one informed the Kosciusko County Clerk that she is part of the government?).

I take the view that the legal system belongs to the citizens and since our tax dollars help fund it, then the information in and about those courts should be freely available without anyone making a profit off of what was created with our tax dollars.

More importantly, this article may make clear to everyone that no state wide data exists about our legal system but remains pretty much bound up in the county courthouses. In some ways not much different than in 1816 or 1851 or 1973. Think about that for a while.

(Since i derafted this post, The Indiana Lawyer published Harrison County joins Odyssey.)

No comments: