For Immediate Release:
Brett Healy, president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, and Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, released the following statement today regarding Senate Bill (SB) 526, which would greatly restrict the amount and type of information found on the state’s online court information system.
“SB 526 is a horrible idea and a step in the wrong direction,” said Healy. “Instead of trying to take public information off of the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website, the Legislature should be looking for ways to incorporate more public information on the site.”
SB 526 would greatly restrict what public records are available on the WCCA website, or CCAP as it’s called, and thus dramatically undercut the site’s usefulness. Records showing that charges against an individual were dismissed or led to a finding of not guilty would no longer appear.
“Under this bill, WCCA would go from being a tool for tracking what happens in our state court system into being a registry of known offenders,” Lueders said. “Only the names of those found guilty would appear.”
Healy and Lueders agreed that if there is abuse of this information by employers and others to deny individuals opportunities, the state should look at ways to address that problem, not undercut an important tool for tracking what happens in the state’s court system.
Recently, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, which includes the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and the Wisconsin Associated Press, testified against SB 526.
The Council opposes the idea that the way to deal with a perceived problem regarding the use of public information is to make it harder to obtain that information.
“We believe the people of Wisconsin can be trusted to make appropriate judgments about cases that are dismissed or lead to not-guilty verdicts,” Lueders said. “They don’t need lawmakers stepping in to prevent them from knowing what is happening in the court system they pay for.”
Healy added, “With all of the important issues left for the Legislature to deal with in the closing days of the session, legislators should not waste any more time on SB 526. Wisconsin needs more transparency, not less.”
For more information, please contact Bill at 608-669-4712 or Brett at 608- 237-7290.