When Florida court records go online later this year, any member of the public will be able to look up most criminal and civil cases online. But the process of making the state’s judicial records available could create two tiers of public viewers, with different privileges based on how much information users are willing to provide about themselves, administrators said.
To access probate and family court records online, for instance, citizens will need to submit a notarized application. According to the plans currently being put in place by 59 of the state’s 67 clerks, applicants will only need to provide information about themselves. But in some cases, applicants will need to pay a subscription fee for access to the file.
People can still get probate and family court records anonymously at county courthouses, but subscribers who have provided information about themselves will have better online access, according to an Associated Press report.
“If you’re a subscriber, you get more information because we know who you are,” said Chris Blakeslee, who was an official with the Office of the State Courts Administrator until late February.
The discrepancies in access are not necessarily the choice of the court clerks themselves. The clerks argue they’re just following the Florida Legislature’s directive.
“This is not the clerks’ choice,” Carol Jean LoCicero, a Tampa-based attorney, said. “I think that [probate and family court] cases should be open to public scrutiny the same as other civil cases, but we’re not going to get that.”
Seven Florida counties do not currently provide court records online.