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June 15, 2009

From: Susan Hazel, Clerk of Courts

To:  Those filing court documents

Re:   Court Records

Updates to the Rules of Superintendence for Public Access of Court Records are scheduled to go into effect on July 1st, 2009.  These updates will require that the party filing any documents with the court omit certain information.

Rules 44 through 47 speak to the definition of court records, various types of public access, restrictions involved in the public viewing of documents, as well as requesting and obtaining records.  Rule 45 (D) addresses the omission of personal identifiers prior to submission of filing a case.  This rule states it is the responsibility of the filing party to omit personal identifiers from case information.  Pursuant to Rule 44(D), “personal identifiers” means social security numbers, except for the last four digits; financial account numbers, including but not limited to debit card, charge card, and credit card numbers; employer and employee identification numbers; and a juvenile’s name in an abuse, neglect, or dependency case, except for the juvenile’s initials or generic abbreviation such as “CV” for “child victim.”  The Clerk of Courts is not required to review the case document to confirm the omission nor shall the Clerk refuse to accept or file a document on this basis.

With your cooperation, we will be able to meet the Court’s responsibility to the public when providing open records while protecting the private information of those individuals involved.

 

Susan Hazel
Huron County Clerk of Courts
September 28, 2007

PUBLIC RECORDS POLICY

Introduction:

It is the policy of Susan Hazel, Huron County Clerk of Courts office that openness leads to a better informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. It is the policy of the Huron County Clerk of Courts’ office to strictly adhere to the state’s Public Records Act. All exemptions to openness are to be construed in their narrowest sense and any denial of public records in response to a valid request must be accompanied by an explanation, including legal authority, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.  If the request is in writing, the explanation must also be in writing.

   Section 1. Public records

This office, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines records as including the following: Any document – paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, e-mail), or other format – that is created or received by, or comes under the jurisdiction of a public office that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.  All records of Susan Hazel, Huron County Clerk of Courts’ office are public unless they are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Revised Code. Records such as social security numbers are considered by the Federal law and the Ohio Attorney General to be private information and public record.

   Section 1.1

It is the policy of Susan Hazel, Huron County Clerk of Courts’ office  that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying (See Section 4 for the e-mail record policy). The Clerk’s records retention schedule shall follow the Ohio Supreme Court’s Rules of Superintendence.

   Section 2. Record requests

 Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:

   Section 2.1

Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the records custodian shall contact the requester for clarification, and should assist the requestor in revising the request by informing the requestor of the manner in which the office keeps its records.

   Section 2.2

The requester does not have to put a records request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. It is this office’s general policy that this information is not to be requested. 

   Section 2.3

Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays. Public records will be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records will be made available within a reasonable period of time. “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of records requested; the proximity of the location where the records are stored; and the necessity for any legal review of the records requested.

   Section 2.4

Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records. Routine requests for records should be satisfied immediately if feasible to do so. Routine requests include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes (both in draft and final form), budgets, salary information, forms and applications, personnel rosters, etc. If fewer than 20 pages of copies are requested or if the records are readily available in an electronic format that can be e-mailed or downloaded easily, these should be made as quickly as the equipment allows.

 All requests for public records should either be satisfied (see Section 2.4) or be acknowledged in writing by the (public office) within three business days following the office’s receipt of the request. If a request is deemed significantly beyond “routine,” such as seeking a voluminous number of copies or requiring extensive research, the acknowledgment should include the following:

   Section 2.4a – An estimated number of business days it will take to satisfy the request.

   Section 2.4b – An estimated cost if copies are requested.

   Section 2.4c – Any items within the request that may be exempt from disclosure.

   Section 2.5

Any denial of public records requested should include an explanation, including legal authority. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released. If there are redactions, each redaction should be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.

   Section 3. Costs for Public Records

Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies.

   Section 3.1 The charge for paper copies is 10 cents per page.

   Section 3.2 The charge for downloaded computer files to a compact disc is $1 per disc.

   Section 3.3 The charge for electronic transfer of records is 10 cents per page.

   Section 3.4

Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies.

   Section 4. E-mail

Documents in electronic mail format are records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content relates to the business of the office. E-mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.

   Section 4.1 – Records in private e-mail accounts used to conduct public business are subject to disclosure, and all employees or representatives of this office are instructed to retain their e-mails that relate to public business (see Section 1 Public Records) and to copy them to their business e-mail accounts and/or to the office’s records custodian.

   Section 4.2 – The records custodian is to treat the e-mails from private accounts as records of the public office, filing them in the appropriate way, retaining them per established schedules and making them available for inspection and copying in accordance with the Public Records Act.

   Section 5. Failure to respond to a public records request

Susan Hazel, Huron County Clerk of Courts’ office recognizes the legal and non-legal consequences of failure to properly respond to a public records request.  In addition to the distrust in government that failure to comply may cause, the Huron County Clerk of Courts’ failure to comply with a request may result in a court ordering the Huron County Clerk of Courts’ office to comply with the law and to pay the requester attorney’s fees and damages.

 

 

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