Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In an opinion released for publication in the Oklahoma Bar Journal only the Oklahoma Supreme Court withdrew its previous rule change halting online access to Oklahoma Court documents and requiring redaction of much personal information contained in them
The ruling can be found HERE:

While praised by some privacy activists, the ruling was widely criticized by just about everyone involved in the court system from attorneys to reporters who cover the courts. Many attorneys observed that it was going to be nearly impossible to comply with the redaction requirements and other statutory requirements requiring personal information be stated in pleadings. Other attorneys, mostly in Oklahoma County where online document availability has been implemented the most, complained that their fees would have to go up to accommodate the necessity of going to the court house to inspect or check out court documents that were otherwise available online.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court is wrestling with a problem that has no good solution. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation and information contained in a typical court pleading is a gold mine for a potential identity thief. Further, some people misuse court documents for everything from stalking to revenge to satisfying their morbid curiosity.

However, at the same time there are valid reasons for the public to have access to court documents. I occasionally check out files on cases that I am not involved in, to see how other attorneys handle that type of case. Or, if I am litigating against someone I don't know, I may check out a file or two in similar cases to evaluate their typical case strategy. Reporters have every right to view any court document filed that is not under a protective order as do firms that do background checks for employers.

What is largely missing in this situation is common sense. Hopefully, when new rules concerning public access to court documents are handed down, there will be a provision allowing stiff civil and criminal penalties for misuse of court documents. This is not a new principle. For example, it is not a crime to own a police band radio or to listen to it. But it is a crime to use one and the information gained from it during the commission of another crime. The same principle should apply to the misuse of court documents. Aside from identity thieves, con men, stalkers and the morbidly curious, any nosy meddler in a case can cost the parties hundreds or even thousands of dollars in legal fees by making protective orders and similar legal measures necessary to protect the parties’ legitimate commercial and personal privacy interests.

A monitored access online system requiring valid, verified identification before issuance of a password protected account would go a long way toward tracking who is viewing what information and would leave solid evidence that could be used against the account holder if the information was misused.

The Top 20 - Barely ...

Today, as I ran my usual Google, DogPile, Yahoo, etc. search on my name and firm name, I came across an interesting notation. This blog has been named to the top 20 most influential political blogs in Oklahoma by BlogNetNews.com/Oklahoma. It was ranked 20th. A link to their posting is HERE.

I must say that I find that interesting. It was not what I intended for this blog, but I certainly don't mind the fact that other people are reading it and listening to what I have to say ... or actually in most cases quote other people saying. Anyway, to the folks at BlogNetNews ... THANK YOU.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The GOP Is In Trouble This Fall ....

Many years ago, shortly after the inauguration, I submitted a guest editorial to the now defunct Tulsa Tribune predicting that George the First, aka George Herbert Walker Bush, would be a one term President. I predicted a Democratic win in the next presidential election cycle because of Bush I's high handed treatment of the evangelical vote and its representatives.

I suspect that the good ole Trib, always up for a good joke, printed my article as just that, a joke. However, the two following Clinton presidencies pretty well verified my analysis. Well, I'm older and wiser now. I'm not going to spend two hours spelling out the reasons that the GOP and John McCain are in deep stuff come election time. It's all already spelled out in other places on this blog. Everything I have been predicting is pretty well spelled out in a recent Barna Group press release that should have the GOP pools losing sleep. That data can be found HERE.

The gist of the Barna study is that recent polling data shows that the larger group of Born Again Christian voters no longer favor GOP candidates and a large portion of the Evangelical subset of Born Again Christian voters is either undecided or unmotivated. What the McCain's of this world do not understand is that the Evangelical voter is not party loyal. He or she is issue loyal. The voter may not realize this. Frequently, they don 't analyze their positions. They just go do something else rather than volunteer for a candidate. Without these Christian volunteers, the "Christian vote" will not come out and if the "Christian vote" does not come out, McCain loses. To date, McCain has shown nothing but arrogance about this situation. I am afraid it is too late for him to mend his fences and while the specter of a Hillary or Obama presidency might be enough to get some of that vote out it is not enough to make them volunteer for a candidate that has stiff armed them for his entire career. And given that, the numbers just aren't there for McCain.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nobody's Fault But Their Own ....

I am tired of conservatives and Christians sitting around their sanctuaries complaining that that they have no voice in the culture. Frequently they just haven’t done their homework and paid the price of admission into the conversation. I saw the classic illustration of this last week.

I am a member of a group of attorneys and judges that meets privately for social interaction and training in the law. This particular chapter tries very hard to keep its members abreast of current issues and challenges in our profession. The topic this month was Oklahoma House Bill 1804.

This organization is actually quite fair in its selection of speakers. They try very hard to present all sides of an issue. However, this time, on this issue, I am told that they had a hard time getting anyone to defend HB 1804 before their group.

The amazing thing about this session was the amount of religious input. Aside from a very influential representative of the Tulsa real estate community who was there calling HB 1804 into question, a young Latino Catholic priest actually delivered a sermon in the ceremonial courtroom of the Federal Court House. He was supporting the official position of the Diocese of Tulsa. The point of the sermon was that HB 1804 is immoral in the eyes of the Catholic Church. We were treated to several minutes of exhortation as to how Oklahomans who support HB1804 are cruel to "immigrants" and are violating their human rights.

The young attorney for a group of churches that support HB 1804 was also there explaining their position and his input to the case.

The single Oklahoma legislator who came to defend HB 1804 did a fine job of taking on all comers. His performance cannot be faulted. But, what was missing was the appearance of public support for HB 1804. HB 1804 is widely supported by the public at large, particularly among political conservatives and conservative Christians. The easiest way to light up a talk radio phone bank or start a coffee shop buzzing in Tulsa is to introduce a discussion of illegal immigration. But, in this conversation, in the very courthouse where some of those issues will likely be decided, the appearance was that the legislature was standing alone.

Conservatives and Christians don’t seem to realize that the court house walls are very thick. Coffee shop activism and talk radio clamor do not penetrate those walls. These are invitation only events. You have to start with someone with the credentials to be invited. That means lyou have to use lawyers. You can be invited by being sued or, if you have standing, you can buy your way in by filing suit, trying to intervene in existing litigation or by filing an amicus brief. The Catholic Church understood this perfectly. A group of liberal churches understood it and had their say. There was no discrimination. Conservatives and Christians who support 1804 did not pay the price of admission and thus were not heard. And, it was nobody’s fault but their own.