NEFAC Provides Guidance to Vermont Supreme Court on New Online Records System

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently expressed concern about how a new online judicial records system will be implemented in Vermont.

Proposed rules released by the Vermont Supreme Court in February cover records in both physical and electronic form. The rules are intended to also govern how a new case-management system will be used by all courts in the state.

“Overall, we applaud the court’s effort to provide such access to its records,” wrote Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, in an April 15 letter. “This type of accessibility is crucial to an informed citizenry and an accountable government.”

The coalition, however, had several concerns with the rules, including the following:

• Under the proposed rules, it appears remote access to court records is entirely discretionary.
• The rules do not specify the maximum amount of time allowed between a record being filed and that record being available remotely.
• The rules do not currently require a mechanism within courthouse terminals that would allow users to email (preferred) or print records.
• As a general matter, the proposed rules could serve court staff — and the public — by better explaining the administrative process needed to file records and make them accessible.

“This endeavor is a critical component to the public’s right to know,” Silverman wrote, “and we look forward to an online records system that provides as much transparency as possible.”

NEFAC regularly advocates for open data and the public’s right to know in each New England state. Most recently, the coalition provided guidance on public court records in Maine, opposed legislation in Connecticut to keep criminal evidence secret, argued for free access to police body camera footage in Vermont and opposed limits on camera use in Vermont courtrooms.

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.