The future of a bill that would restrict access to online court records is uncertain after an Assembly Committee had a tie vote Wednesday.
According to Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security Chair Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, the bill may be forwarded on to the Rules Committee or kept in his committee for a revote.
The Consolidated Court Automation Program system is a web site open to the public that shows all civil and criminal cases in which a Wisconsin resident has been involved.
The bill would remove information from CCAP on cases that are pending, reopened, vacated or overturned from view for the general public. People would only be able to see information on cases where someone has been found guilty in a criminal or civil case, has been evicted or has been issued a restraining order.
The bill also stipulates if someone searches for a person’s name on CCAP and then denies them employment or housing, they would have to admit to searching their record or face a $1,000 fine.
A person may also write a request to the director of state courts to remove their records on CCAP from general public access, which must be complied with.
According to Andy Hinkle, spokesperson for Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security had a tied 3-3 vote on the bill. The bill’s future now rests in the hands of the committee chair.
Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, previously told The Badger Herald he introduced the bill to protect people who may be discriminated against, especially by employers and landlords, even though they are not actually convicted in a case.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the bill would no longer make CCAP a complete and reliable source of information. He said he fears the bill would allow private companies to distribute information without controls on accuracy.
“It responds to the preconceived problem of the misuse of information by saying: ‘Then you just can’t have the information.’ I just think it’s the wrong way to go,” Lueders said. “That really sells the citizens of Wisconsin short. I don’t think we are quite that mean and stupid.”
Lueders said he believes if discrimination occurs because of CCAP records, it is an issue that warrants a criminal prosecution, not changing an open records system.