The chief justice of the N.M. Supreme Court says he’s determined to improve public access to state court records by making them available online.
If he’s successful, roughly a year from now any document filed in a magistrate or district court in New Mexico will be available to everyone on the Internet.
In a Santa Fe New Mexican article from a month ago, Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels and Justice Richard Bosson were quoted as saying they support putting court records on the Internet for everyone to access, but at the time there was no certainty that it would be done. A month later, Daniels sounds confident that it can and will happen.
“We’re going to get this done,” Daniels told NMPolitics.net.
E-filing system makes online access possible
The Administrative Office of the Courts is in the process of transitioning to an e-filing system for attorneys. Lawyers are already filing documents online in several districts around the state.
The e-filing system also gives lawyers online access to all filings in a case. But the public doesn’t have the same access, at least yet.
Daniels said the goal is to fully implement the statewide e-filing system by December 2012, beginning with civil cases and then adding criminal cases, and then give the public online access to court records.
Documents filed in cases before the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court will be added later.
A win for everyone
Giving the public online access to court records can’t come soon enough. It’s about time that New Mexico’s courts join the 21st Century.
Currently, an index of court cases that includes information on each case is available to the public at nmcourts.com, but the system doesn’t include actual documents. The feds have provided public access to all federal court records for years at nmcourt.fed.us, but people have to pay 8 cents per page for access.
Daniels said documents filed in state courts will be available to the public for free. Fees attorneys pay to e-file cover the cost of the system.
And those fees – $6 to file and $4 to forward the filing to opposing counsel, according to The New Mexican – are cheaper than the $15-$30 Daniels says lawyers have been spending to file and mail paper copies of documents.
So the implementation of the e-filing system will be a win for everyone, if it all works out.
Let’s hope Daniels succeeds in his goal of making court records available to the public online. That would give people a new level of access to the third branch and would be a dramatic win for the open government movement.