Saturday, August 11, 2007

ABA drops proposal on limiting access to some criminal arrest records

BLT reports here that the ABA at its meeting in San Francisco will not act on a somewhat controversial proposal to endorse limiting public access to some criminal arrest records.

"The proposal, offered by the ABA’s Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions, was aimed at making it easier for convicted people who have served their time, and those whose arrests never led to a conviction, to gain employment and housing without the stigma of past records that can be found in online databases and elsewhere.

. . .

The commission wanted the ABA to favor legislation at all levels, 'to the extent permitted by the First Amendment,' to restrict access to records of dismissed or acquitted indictments, and records of past convictions after a period of time, to law enforcement agencies only. But news media organizations protested that the proposal would seal off from the public a significant segment of public records that are important in holding law enforcement agencies accountable for past arrests and investigations."

This Ambrogi post via has links discussing the proposal.

The media people who opposed the proposal had another idea:

"Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press . . . said the way for the commission to achieve its goal of erasing the stigma of past criminal records is not to seal the records but to make such discrimination by employers and landlords illegal."

That's not a promising concept - unless there is a corresponding limitation of the liability of employers who hire arrestees.

UPDATE: In an unrelated development, this post among others reports on how the New York Times Supreme Court reporter got the C-SPAN cameras booted from a public appearance, which suggests that no one's commitment to the ideals of the First Amendment is absolute.

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