Winning a case does not mean you can scrub it….

From the Des Moines Register:

Winning a criminal court case does not mean that defendants are allowed to have their electronic court records hidden from public view, Iowa Supreme Court justices ruled this morning.

But justices left the door open to possible further action by them to address concerns raised in two Linn and Polk county court cases where lower-court judges had moved to shield the records from public view.

State lawyers, court officials and First Amendment advocates had urged the Iowa Supreme Court to reject arguments that fairness required the removal of electronic records in cases that end in dismissal or acquittal. The arguments involve various changes to a 1973 law requiring that some “criminal history data” be deleted from state computer systems in defendant-won cases and how that requirement butts up against several other laws that require court records be kept.

Linn County District Judge Casey D. Jones first used the law in December 2009 to erase an OWI arrest following a successful suppression motion by the lawyer for Jamie Paul White. Polk County District Associate Judge Odell McGhee later used the same logic  to erase a misdemeanor assault case that prosecutors had declined to pursue against Cary Ann Ryan. (Ryan and White are both named in court records but mentioned only by their initials in the rulings issued this morning.)

Justices, in opinions released today, reasoned that legislators in 1973 originally were focused more on “the potential for error and misuse” of a then-new state computer system that was being developed to be incorporated into a national criminal database. The legislature subsequently passed laws requiring that complete court dockets be maintained, source documents be preserved and that the public have access to criminal history data.

“We think that giving a reasonable effect to all these laws leads to the conclusion that the judicial branch need not alter its official document,” Justice Edward Mansfield wrote in the Linn County case.

Mansfield, noting Iowa’s on-going work to develop an all-electronic document filing system, said arguments for shielding electronic court dockets from public view eventually would require that “court files themselves would have to be removed whenever the proceeding ended in the defendant’s favor, because those files would constitute ‘criminal history data in a computer data storage system.’

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