Chief Judge Evans sets policy on commercial access to bulk electronic court record data
Released on 5/10/2012 6:51:21 PM

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans today issued an order establishing guidelines under which the Clerk of the Circuit Court may enter into agreements with commercial business entities to provide access to bulk electronic court record data. Effective December 2, 2002, General Administrative Order No. 2002-03 authorizes wider access to electronic court record data while placing some limitations on the types of data the Clerk may make available to businesses for resale to consumers. The order also prohibits the dissemination of data directly from the Clerk’s computer system and prohibits the granting of exclusive rights to any commercial business entity to access and disseminate data.

The order comports with new official policy governing electronic access for circuit court records in Illinois recently released by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.

To ensure all businesses receive equal treatment, General Administrative Order No. 2002-03 requires the Clerk to disseminate only standard sets of data from court records, referred to in the order as uniformly packaged data files. Upon approval of the Clerk’s uniform packaging by the Chief Judge, commercial business entities can enter into an agreement with the Clerk to receive the standard sets of data. However, all special requests seeking any additional data require the written approval of the Chief Judge.

The written approval of the Chief Judge is also required for the Clerk’s office-wide, written policy on data dissemination requests and procedures; the setting of fee schedules by the Clerk for data dissemination; and the acceptance by the Clerk of in-kind services or goods as a form of payment for disseminated data.

“After careful consideration, the court is ready to move forward in an equitable and uniform manner to expand access to electronic court records in response to requests from the business and legal community. However we are doing so with the utmost respect to the public’s right to privacy and in such a way as to prevent inappropriate use of data,” said Chief Judge Evans.

The Clerk may make available the following types of information for individual cases: filing date; case caption; party name and relationship, such as plaintiff or defendant; attorney or attorneys; cause of action or charge; case number or designation; case activity by date; case outcome, including judgement amount where applicable; and disposition date. In criminal cases, information will only be made available for case numbers or charges where a judgement of conviction was entered against the defendant.

Electronic information will be provided in uniform data files in one or more electronic formats that meet industry standards for data dissemination.

To protect the public from possible discriminatory practices, the order prohibits the dissemination of any data files that result from selective searches of court record data by identifying fields. Some examples of identifying fields include birth date, social security number, race, and gender. Also, data concerning matters or materials that are sealed, impounded, or expunged by statute, court rule, or court order may not be disseminated.

Another key component of the order requires commercial business entities to ensure all court record data is updated and made current as of the date of dissemination. Providers must also advise customers that the data is current as of the date of dissemination and that such data is not an official court record.

The order makes it clear that dissemination of bulk electronic court record data is not required and neither the court or the Clerk is obligated to do so.

Chief Judge Evans thanked Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown for her untiring cooperation and efforts in collaborating with the court in the development of the policy.