The New Jersey Supreme Court today announced a revision, which will take effect on September 1, 2009, to the court rule regarding public access to court records. This revision was adopted in response to a November 2007 report by a Special Committee on Public Access to Court Records and comments from the public to that report. The Court’s press release is available on-line here.
I am pleased that the Court rejected one recommendation, called “Recommendation #26” which was presented to the Court by its Special Committee. That recommendation stated:
Recommendation #26. Complaints alleging indictable and disorderly persons offenses should be treated as confidential unless and until a probable cause determination is entered pursuant to Rule 3:3-1(a)(1) and (b)(1) or Rule 7:2- 2(a)(1).
On January 11, 2008, I submitted a written objection urging rejection of the recommendation because it would have prevented the public from being able to hold judges accountable for making erroneous, or possibly corrupt, probable cause determinations. My letter to the Committee is on-line here.
In rejecting Recommendation 26, the Supreme Court found:
Complaints alleging indictable and disorderly persons offenses shall continue to be deemed public records available for inspection at the time they are filed, whether or not a probable cause finding has been entered. There is a need for transparency and public scrutiny of the entire judicial process, beginning at the time the complaint is filed. The public will have greater confidence in the fairness of a probable cause determination made by a judicial officer when information on such findings is available for review.