GR 31 ACCESS TO COURT RECORDS (a) Policy and Purpose. It is the policy of the courts to facilitate access to court records as provided by Article I, Section 10 of the Washington State Constitution. Access to court records is not absolute and shall be consistent with reasonable expectations of personal privacy as provided by article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution and shall not unduly burden the business of the courts. (b) Scope. This rule applies to all court records, regardless of the physical form of the court record, the method of recording the court record or the method of storage of the court record. Administrative records are not within the scope of this rule. Court records are further governed by GR 22. (c) Definitions. (1) "Access" means the ability to view or obtain a copy of a court record. (2) "Administrative record" means any record pertaining to the management, supervision or administration of the judicial branch, including any court, board, or committee appointed by or under the direction of any court or other entity within the judicial branch, or the office of any county clerk. (3) "Bulk distribution" means distribution of all, or a significant subset, of the information in court records, as is and without modification. (4) "Court record" includes, but is not limited to: (i) Any document, information, exhibit, or other thing that is maintained by a court in connection with a judicial proceeding, and (ii) Any index, calendar, docket, register of actions, official record of the proceedings, order, decree, judgment, minute, and any information in a case management system created or prepared by the court that is related to a judicial proceeding. Court record does not include data maintained by or for a judge pertaining to a particular case or party, such as personal notes and communications, memoranda, drafts, or other working papers; or information gathered, maintained, or stored by a government agency or other entity to which the court has access but which is not entered into the record. (5) "Criminal justice agencies" are government agencies that perform criminal justice functions pursuant to statute or executive order and that allocate a substantial part of their annual budget to those functions. (6) "Dissemination contract" means an agreement between a court record provider and any person or entity, except a Washington State court (Supreme Court, court of appeals, superior court, district court or municipal court), that is provided court records. The essential elements of a dissemination contract shall be promulgated by the JIS Committee. (7) "Judicial Information System (JIS) Committee" is the committee with oversight of the statewide judicial information system. The judicial information system is the automated, centralized, statewide information system that serves the state courts. (8) "Judge" means a judicial officer as defined in the Code of Judicial Conduct (CJC) Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct Section (A). (9) "Public" includes an individual, partnership, joint venture, public or private corporation, association, federal, state, or local governmental entity or agency, however constituted, or any other organization or group of persons, however organized. (10) "Public purpose agency" means governmental agencies included in the definition of "agency" in RCW 42.17.020 and other non-profit organizations whose principal function is to provide services to the public. (d) Access. (1) The public shall have access to all court records except as restricted by federal law, state law, court rule, court order, or case law. (2) Each court by action of a majority of the judges may from time to time make and amend local rules governing access to court records not inconsistent with this rule. (3) A fee may not be charged to view court records at the courthouse. (e) Personal Identifiers Omitted or Redacted from Court Records (1) Except as otherwise provided in GR 22, parties shall not include, and if present shall redact, the following personal identifiers from all documents filed with the court, whether filed electronically or in paper, unless necessary or otherwise ordered by the Court. (A) Social Security Numbers. If the Social Security Number of an individual must be included in a document, only the last four digits of that number shall be used. (B) Financial Account Numbers. If financial account numbers are relevant, only the last four digits shall be recited in the document. (C) Driver's License Numbers. (2) The responsibility for redacting these personal identifiers rests solely with counsel and the parties. The Court or the Clerk will not review each pleading for compliance with this rule. If a pleading is filed without redaction, the opposing party or identified person may move the Court to order redaction. The court may award the prevailing party reasonable expenses, including attorney fees and court costs, incurred in making or opposing the motion. COMMENT This rule does not require any party, attorney, clerk, or judicial officer to redact information from a court record that was filed prior to the adoption of this rule. (f) Distribution of Court Records Not Publicly Accessible (1) A public purpose agency may request court records not publicly accessible for scholarly, governmental, or research purposes where the identification of specific individuals is ancillary to the purpose of the inquiry. In order to grant such requests, the court or the Administrator for the Courts must: (A) Consider: (i) the extent to which access will result in efficiencies in the operation of the judiciary; (ii) the extent to which access will fulfill a legislative mandate; (iii) the extent to which access will result in efficiencies in other parts of the justice system; and (iv) the risks created by permitting the access. (B) Determine, in its discretion, that filling the request will not violate this rule. (C) Determine the minimum access to restricted court records necessary for the purpose is provided to the requestor. (D) Assure that prior to the release of court records under section (f) (1), the requestor has executed a dissemination contract that includes terms and conditions which: (i) require the requester to specify provisions for the secure protection of any data that is confidential; (ii) prohibit the disclosure of data in any form which identifies an individual; (iii) prohibit the copying, duplication, or dissemination of information or data provided other than for the stated purpose; and (iv) maintain a log of any distribution of court records which will be open and available for audit by the court or the Administrator of the Courts. Any audit should verify that the court records are being appropriately used and in a manner consistent with this rule. (2) Courts, court employees, clerks and clerk employees, and the Commission on Judicial Conduct may access and use court records only for the purpose of conducting official court business. (3) Criminal justice agencies may request court records not publicly accessible. (A) The provider of court records shall approve the access level and permitted use for classes of criminal justice agencies including, but not limited to, law enforcement, prosecutors, and corrections. An agency that is not included in a class may request access. (B) Agencies requesting access under this section of the rule shall identify the court records requested and the proposed use for the court records. (C) Access by criminal justice agencies shall be governed by a dissemination contract. The contract shall: (i) specify the data to which access is granted; (ii) specify the uses which the agency will make of the data; and (iii) include the agency's agreement that its employees will access the data only for the uses specified. (g) Bulk Distribution of Court Records (1) A dissemination contract and disclaimer approved by the JIS Committee for JIS records or a dissemination contract and disclaimer approved by the court clerk for local records must accompany all bulk distribution of court records. (2) A request for bulk distribution of court records may be denied if providing the information will create an undue burden on court or court clerk operations because of the amount of equipment, materials, staff time, computer time or other resources required to satisfy the request. (3) The use of court records, distributed in bulk form, for the purpose of commercial solicitation of individuals named in the court records is prohibited. (h) Appeals. Appeals of denials of access to JIS records maintained at state level shall be governed by the rules and policies established by the JIS Committee. (i) Notice. The Administrator for the Courts shall develop a method to notify the public of access to court records and the restrictions on access. (j) Access to Juror Information. Individual juror information, other than name, is presumed to be private. After the conclusion of a jury trial, the attorney for a party, or party pro se, or member of the public, may petition the trial court for access to individual juror information under the control of court. Upon a showing of good cause, the court may permit the petitioner to have access to relevant information. The court may require that juror information not be disclosed to other persons. (k) Access to Master Jury Source List. Master jury source list information, other than name and address, is presumed to be private. Upon a showing of good cause, the court may permit a petitioner to have access to relevant information from the list. The court may require that the information not be disclosed to other persons. [Adopted effective October 26, 2004; amended effective January 3, 2006.]
Click here to view in a PDF.
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|