Request Processing: Ongoing Investigation

in Progress

Should the public have access to files pertaining to ongoing investigations? If so, when? Should there be different guidelines if the individual is a public servant or peace officer rather than a citizen? The debate continues…

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Featured

Virginia FOIA advisory council subcommittee advances bill on criminal files transparency

A subcommittee of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council advanced legislation Tuesday [Nov. 17] that would expand transparency for criminal investigative files and make them subject to the Freedom of Information Act with certain conditions.

House Bill 5090, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, would allow people to request all criminal investigative files through the FOIA process. Police departments would be required to release these files unless a judge rules the release would jeopardize an ongoing investigation or cause harm, which would include jeopardizing the privacy of victims. A case would no longer be considered ongoing when it has been adjudicated or evidence would stop being collected.

Read More | The Roanoke Times

So far, 86% of public records managers agree:

“Quantity of Response Documents Per Request” is the biggest driver of public records complexity. Weigh in with your 2021 priorities!

Legislation

Maine courts have improperly sealed public records for years, after agreeing to end practice

Unlike most states, Maine does not have a formal process for expunging or sealing most criminal records for adults. But in 2015, the Judicial Branch began quietly and automatically sealing cases that had been dismissed, meaning the details and the outcomes were not accessible to the public.

The courts ultimately pledged to reverse that policy in 2016. That change never actually happened, however, a fact realized last month by a Sun Journal reporter.

The computer system has now been reprogrammed to stop the automatic sealing – which occurred 30 days after dismissal – and the courts are rewriting the code to open the cases that were improperly sealed. In the meantime, clerks have been advised that those files should be available to the public. Cases that were sealed by court order will remain so.

Read MoreThe Press Herald 

New Jersey Governor Murphy Signs “Daniel’s law”

Governor Phil Murphy [on Nov. 20] signed legislation (A1649), which protects the home addresses and telephone numbers of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers from public disclosure.

The bill amends the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) to exclude from the definition of a government (i.e., public) record the portion of any document which discloses the home address of any active or retired 1) judge, 2) prosecutor or 3) law enforcement officer.

Further, the bill prohibits government agencies, individuals and businesses from knowingly publishing on the internet, or otherwise making available, the home address or unpublished home telephone number of any active or retired judge or any active or retired prosecutor.

Read MoreNJ Insider

Litigation

Hawaii police union sues counties over name disclosures

The two civil lawsuits filed Friday [Nov. 20] by the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers seek to have the names remain undisclosed until all grievance avenues for the officers have been exhausted, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

The lawsuits challenge a law enacted Sept. 15 by Democratic Gov. David Ige that places the disciplinary files of officers who are fired or suspended into the public record.

The police union argues the law violates the privacy rights of officers and the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the counties.

Read More | The Eagle News

Peer Resources

Slay the Public Records Request Dragons: Real Stories of Conquest

On Tuesday, Dec. 8 GovQA will be joined by Microsoft and Denver Regional Transportation District to provide insight into how you can transition to the next “age” – suiting you up with the knowledge to successfully battle the new public record dragons.

Read More | GovQA

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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