NEFAC, Vt. Open Government Advocates Recommend Changes to Court Records System

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition sent the Vermont Judiciary today a list of recommendations on how to improve access to state court records.

Vermont currently uses Odyssey software to provide online access but various policy and design decisions by judiciary officials have made the platform challenging to use.

“Our conversations with journalists and transparency advocates in Vermont have highlighted continued issues with the poorly designed system,” wrote NEFAC and other open government advocates in an Aug. 23 letter.

“These issues appear to be the result of policy choices, not technological barriers, and are therefore fixable — and we believe fixing them is in the best interest of both the judiciary and the public,” the coalition wrote.

NEFAC’s Vermont Advisory Committee — a group of coalition board members, journalists and other open government advocates — first discussed its concerns with court officials earlier this year and followed up with the letter to request specific policy changes.

Those changes include:

(1) Instituting a “public is public” model whereby any record publicly available at a courthouse be made publicly available online unless such access is prohibited by law.
(2) Making available a virtual docket containing an easily searchable index of all cases before the Vermont courts.
(3) Improving public access through the computer terminals at courthouses across the state.
(4) Posting all non-exempt court records online immediately upon filing.
(5) Considering an upgrade of the current platform to a more user-friendly system with better search functions.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

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.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund and Connecticut Public.