Dave Stafford for www.theindianalawyer.comA panel advising the Indiana Supreme Court on which trial court records should go online has recommended that petitions seeking to expunge criminal records eventually be posted on the state court’s website for public case information.The Advisory Task Force on Remote Access to and Privacy of Electronic Court Records on Friday recommended those filings be posted on the mycase.in.gov website. That site is the portal for public information from Indiana trial courts that have adopted the state-sponsored Odyssey case management system.The task force unanimously recommended the petitions be posted online until the point at which a judge orders an offense expunged. After an order is issued, the expungement case file would be removed, as would state court records of the expunged offense.“Once that order is issued, then that case is confidential and you won’t see it on mycase,” Director and Counsel for Trial Court Technology Mary DePrez told the task force. But in a case where an expungement petition is denied, the case would remain available online under the task force’s recommendation.It’s uncertain how soon trial court orders will be posted on mycase.in.gov, but it won’t likely happen until next year or later. The Supreme Court will act on recommendations about putting orders, pleadings and filings online after the task force reports its recommendations at a later date.Panel member and Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor Joel Schumm expressed initial reservations about posting expungement records online. He said doing so could harm people trying to get a job, for instance, if the crime turns up in a background check.“Any low-level felony case could potentially be expunged,” he said, noting that even after an offense is removed from someone’s record, private vendors and third-party web sites may continue to report the offense. “You can’t necessarily put that genie back in the bottle.”DePrez noted that under bulk-sharing agreements the courts have with outside vendors, those third parties are required to reload the entire database with each new data dump, mostly on a monthly basis.“Cases that have been expunged will not be available to them,” she said.Some panelists said there was a public interest in keeping expungement petitions public, particularly in high-profile cases where a prosecutor may not consent or where victims or interested parties might wish to address the matter in court.The group’s decision to post expungement petitions online came as it separately recommended that all convictions, abstracts of judgment and sentencing orders in criminal cases be posted online, with the exception of “miscellaneous criminal” cases types. Those cases most often deal with warrants, subpoenas, interstate compact issues, mental health issues and other matters that may not be subject to public disclosure.The panel also voted 7-1 to recommend that records in all juvenile proceedings be kept off the website, after some discussion about records in juvenile proceedings that are not confidential.Task force members Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, and Schumm said a preferable policy is to shield all juvenile proceedings from online access even if they may be public records. “This would be consistent with what happens at the appellate court now,” Schumm said.Hoosier State Press Association Executive Director and General Counsel Stephen Key cast the lone vote against the recommendation. Key said he believed information that was public in juvenile cases should be posted online and that it was possible to address clerks’ concerns so that only that information the Legislature has deemed public would be posted.The task force’s next meeting is Sept. 2 in the historic reference room of the Indiana State Library, 315 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis. More information about the task force is available here.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
Ocean City’s flood mitigation plan to lessen problems when storm waters rise was discussed at a Fourth Ward meeting. By MADDY VITALEFlood mitigation projects and bicycle safety were the main topics of discussion for city officials and Fourth Ward residents during a meeting at the Ocean City Free Public Library on Saturday.The meeting was a workshop for residents to ask questions and raise concerns they might have.Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr conducted the meeting. At-Large Councilman Keith Hartzell and city official Vince Beckier were on hand to also address people’s concerns and answer questions.The meeting was held just two days after City Council authorized a contract on Thursday for ACT Engineers, based in Robbinsville, N.J., to develop a Flood Mitigation and Drainage Master Plan. During Saturday’s ward meeting, a handful of people in the audience brought up specific areas of town that had continual flooding problems in the 20s, 40s and 50s streets.Barr told the audience that a town hall meeting will be held in the next couple of weeks with representatives of ACT Engineers, Mayor Jay Gillian and other city officials to discuss the flood-mitigation plans.Beckier explained that areas around Merion Park, west from 42rd Street to 45th Street, will be looked at again and improved as needed as will other portions of the island where flooding is an issue.“We are aware of most of the problem areas and we are trying to address them. It won’t be done overnight. But the town hall meeting will be in a couple of weeks,” Barr pointed out. “Most of the problems will be fixed or addressed.”In his weekly mayor’s message posted on the city website Friday, Gillian explained some of the plans for the island.He said in his message that the city has completed major drainage projects in three of the island’s most flood-prone neighborhoods and invested more than $20 million to improve storm drainage, pumping stations and elevating roads.Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr speaks with resident Jackie Wolchko about plans to lessen flooding problems on her street.Jackie Wolchko, who lives on 50th Street and Haven Avenue, said her home is elevated, but she has endured flooding in her area for years.“It seems to me a lot of work is going on around 50th Street and on the south and north end, but I don’t see anything happening in my area. They did say they would get to it,” she said.Barr said there have been things done in Wolchko’s area to lessen the flooding problems. “Hopefully ACT will make things better there,” he said.Hartzell told Wolchko to attend the town hall meeting to see what the engineers have to say.Beckier explained that it can be difficult to stop flooding altogether in low-lying areas. “That’s why we elevate the streets,” he said.“The marshlands are reclaiming the street,” Wolchko noted.Officials said ACT is aware of the problem in her neighborhood.Bicyclists cross Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue on Saturday afternoon.Bicycle safety was also a main issue of concern for residents at the ward meeting. They said there are more bicyclists in town than ever before, and some don’t obey the traffic laws.Police Lt. Brian Hopely, who is in charge of the Traffic Safety Unit, is a good person to start with if residents have concerns about bicyclists, officials said.“Clearly, more work needs to be done. We need to educate people about bicycle safety,” Barr said.He added that real estate packets given to summer renters with safety messages are not the most efficient way of getting the message across. Simply put, he said, vacationers are excited to get on the road and they aren’t always interested in reading material about safety.“People are excited. They aren’t going to take the time to look through the rental packets,” Barr said.Hartzell pointed to the city’s bicycle advocacy group, Bike OCNJ, which has safety information on its website at www.bikeocnj.org.“We are advocating for bikes. If we had everyone on bikes, we’d be happy,” Hartzell noted.However, he said, people must follow the traffic laws.Mary Faust, who has lived in Ocean City since 2014 on 24th Street and Simpson Avenue, asked if possibly speed bumps could be installed to slow motorists and bicyclists down along Haven Avenue rather than keeping the stop signs along the popular stretch for cyclists.“As a bicyclist, and an elderly person, I can’t start and stop at the stop signs. It just doesn’t work,” Faust said.Officials said they would look into speed bumps but noted that Ocean City does not utilize them.The audience listens to At-Large Councilman Keith Hartzell and Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr talk about the issues.