The Cincinnati Enquirer is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order a Butler County judge to release thousands of criminal-conviction records it contends are being illegally withheld.
A judge has routinely – and immediately — sealed the convictions of some offenders, principally students at Miami University in Oxford, for 14 years, according to the newspaper.
Problem is, the records were illegally sealed and, as such, remain public records, The Enquirer argues in its filing with the Ohio Supreme Court.
The judge has been sealing records of criminal convictions by citing a section of state law that permits those found not guilty or against whom charges are dismissed to petition to seal such records.
Of course, the cases being disputed by newspaper involve convictions and different law comes into play. First-time offenders are entitled to petition a judge to seal a conviction after one year for a misdemeanor and after three years for certain non-violent felonies.
The Butler County prosecutor, who represents the judge, has said the court records cannot be provided because they have been sealed and have shed their status as public records.
However, the newspaper is arguing before the justices that since the records were illegally sealed, they never have been defrocked of their status as public records under court rules and state law.