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SUPREME COURT ISSUES DIRECTIVE ON PUBLIC ACCESS TO JUDICIAL BRANCH ADMINISTRATIVE RECORDS

     Chief Justice Myron T. Steele recently took the lead in ensuring public access to court information by issuing a directive requiring all Delaware courts that have not already done so to adopt formal policies providing for public access to their administrative records. The directive, known as Administrative Directive 162, notes that while the Delaware Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Judicial Branch of government, “the Judicial Branch supports the presumption of open public access to court records, including court administrative records, to promote government accountability and greater public trust and confidence in the Judiciary.”

     While seeking to ensure the public’s right to access this information, the Directive recognizes that, in some instances, this right must be weighed against other important interests, such as personal safety, prevention of identity theft, building security, and adherence to state and federal statutes prohibiting the release of certain information. For this reason, the Directive includes a template to be used by the individual courts which details the limited exceptions to the general rule requiring release of administrative records.

     The Directive also seeks to ensure a balance between making records available at low cost to those requesting them and the cost to taxpayers of so doing. Thus, while permitting copying and administrative charges incurred in providing requested records to be assessed, the Directive permits a court to reduce or waive the charge if doing so benefits the general public.

     (A copy of Administrative Directive 162 is available on the Supreme Court’s web site)

For further information, please contact Patricia Griffin.

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