NEFAC, MFOIC Express Concerns Over Proposed Rules for Maine Digital Court Record System

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition expressed concern today about how citizens will access a new digital court record system in Maine.

The Maine state judiciary announced in June that it will begin posting its court records online. The proposed rules are intended to provided a framework for how the online record system is maintained and how digital records will be accessed by the public.

Sigmund Schutz, a member of both the NEFAC and MFOIC Board of Directors, explained in a March 27 letter that the organizations have four primary concerns:

• Access to the records needs to be timely, as soon as reasonably possible after records are filed with the court.
• Certain categorical exemptions to access — as outlined in the proposed rules — are overbroad and unnecessary in all cases.
• The proposed rules reference an incorrect standard for granting and lifting seals on court records.
• Any fee schedule the court may adopt should not become an unreasonable barrier to public access.

More broadly, Schutz wrote, the organizations favor “a policy of maximum reasonable public access to Maine court records and proceedings.”

“Public scrutiny improves judicial functions, enhances the actual fairness and, perhaps as important, the appearance of fairness of judicial proceedings,” he added.

The decision to begin posting court records online followed multiple rounds of comments submitted by NEFAC, media groups and other open government advocates. In addition to testifying in favor of online access last June, NEFAC testified to the benefits of publicly-accessible online judicial records in September and December of 2017.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.