1. Ohio Statute 149.43(A) establishes the public's right of access to "Public Records" (see 1. below)
  2. Court records of Ohio's County Common Pleas Court, with the exception of specific statutory designated exemptions, are "Public Records" (see 2. below)
  3. The Clerk of Court of Common Pleas is the statutory elected custodian of the "Public Records" of the Court pursuant R.C.2303.26, 2303.14,2303.09, 2303.12, which are defined by Superintendence Rule 26. (see 3. below)
  4. Ohio Statute 149.43(B) states that all public records shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours (see 4. below)
  5. The Supreme Court of Ohio has consistently held that the language of R. C. 149.43(B) is mandatory in nature. A custodian of public records may grant greater access to those records than is prescribed by 149.43(B), and that the purpose of 149.43 is to promote open government by providing persons with full access to public records.. (see 5. below) 
  6. Ohio Statute 149.43(B) does not vest a county or custodian with the authority to make distinctions as to who is to be granted additional access. (ie: Internet) (see 6. below)
  7. The Internet is a medium ... and a county or custodian may not limit Internet access, if it exists, to indexed public records. The Internet is an allowable record media under the Ohio Rules of Superintendence Rule 26 and Rule 27 (see 7. below)

 

1.

§ 149.43 Availability of public records. -- RC § 149.43 is affected by Am. Sub. H. B. 490 (149 v --), effective 1-1-2004. See the 2002 Legislative Bulletin No. 6 for the version effective 1-1-2004.

(A) As used in this section:

(1) "Public record" means records kept by any public office, including, but not limited to, state, county, city, village, township, and school district units, ...

2.

Ohio Sunshine Law (Ohio Attorney General) R.C. 9.01- Provisions governing public information, 149.011 Definitions of "state agency"- inclusive of ..."any court".

(Am.Sub.H.B.238 , 116 Gen. A.; 141 Ohio Laws 2761  eff. 7/1/85)

Model Policy on Public Access to Court Records Sections 1 through 6, prepared by the State Justice Institute on behalf of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts, is in accord with these definitions. Especially section 4.70 (f) Court records in electronic form presumptively subject to remote access by the public: "Court orders, judgments, decrees.." 

Butler County Prosecutor's Opinion 12/27/2002 page 5 & 6 list 1 through 8

3.

In Ohio, public records are the people's records, and officials in whose custody they happen to be are merely trustees for the people. A custodian of public records who complies with the access requirements specified in R.C. 149., is vested with the discretion to determine what if any additional access he or she will permit.   

(Accord 2000 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 2000-046 page 2)

 § 2303.09 Filing and preserving papers. The Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas shall file together and carefully preserve in his office all papers delivered to him for that purpose in every action or proceeding. HISTORY: RS § 4960; S&C 1129; 51 v 57, § 585; GC § 2875; Bureau of Code Revision. Eff 10-1-53.

§ 2303.14 Keeping of books and making of records. The Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas shall keep the journals, records, books, and papers appertaining to the court and record its proceedings

§ 2303.12 Books to be kept by Clerk.

The Clerk of the Court of Common pleas shall keep at least four books. They shall be called the Appearance Docket, Trial Docket and printed duplicates of the Trial Docket for the use of the court and the officers thereof, Journal, and the Execution Docket. He shall also keep a record in book form or he may prepare a record by using any photo static, photographic, miniature photographic, film, microfilm, or micro photographic process, electrostatic process, perforated tape, magnetic tape, or other electromagnetic means, electronic data processing, machine readable media, graphic or video display, or any combination thereof, which correctly and accurately copies or reproduces the original document, paper, or instrument in writing. He shall use materials that comply with the minimum standards of quality for permanent photographic records prescribed by the National Bureau of Standards. He shall keep an index to the trial docket and to the printed duplicates of the trial docket and of the journal direct, and to the appearance docket, record, and execution docket, direct and reverse. All clerks keeping records and information by the methods described in this section shall keep and make readily available to the public the machine and equipment necessary to reproduce the records and information in a readable form.

HISTORY: RS § 4957; S&C 1034; 51 v 57, § 304; 78 v 108; 79 v 115; 86 v 174; GC § 2878; Bureau of Code Revision, 10-1-53; 124 v 63; 136 v H 205. Eff 8-19-75.

Comparative Legislation  Dockets to be kept:
    CA--Gov't Code § 69844
     IL--Comp Stat Ann ch 705 § 105/24
     IN--Code § 33-10.5-7-1
     KY--Rev Stat Ann § 30A.080
     MI--Comp Laws Ann § 600.8555
     NY--Jud Law § 255 et seq
     PA--CSA tit 42 § 2701 et seq

Ohio Supreme Court Superintendence Rule 26 (A) & (B) and especially Rule 26.03 (2),and (B)(1) define the Indices, Dockets, Journals and Records of the courts and states that the rule is to be interpreted to allow for technological advances for the maintaining, preserving of court records.

Butler County Prosecutor's Opinion 12/27/2002 page 1 Paragraph 3

4.

(B)(1) Subject to division (B)(4) of this section,

 all public records shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours. Subject to division (B)(4) of this section, upon request, a public office or person responsible for public records shall make copies available at cost, within a reasonable period of time. In order to facilitate broader access to public records, public offices shall maintain public records in a manner that they can be made available for inspection in accordance with this division.

( Accord 1994 Op. Att'y Gen. No.94-006)

5.

(Accord 2000 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 2000-046 page 2)

6.

To the contrary it states that public records, "shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any (all, every) person at all reasonable times during regular business hours".

(Accord 2000 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 2000-046 page 6)

( 1990 Op. Att'y Gen. No.90-050 at 2-209 and 2-210)

( 1982 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 82-104 at 2-285)

(1974 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 74-097) 

7.

The Internet is a collection of interconnected networks of computers that permits and enables the transmission of information and images between individuals 

(1999 Law of the Internet,- xxviii, xxx-xxxi, F. Lawrence Street & Mark P. Grant)

SupR 26. Court Records Management and Retention.

(C) Combined records. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, a court may combine indexes, dockets, journals, and case files provided that the combination contains the components of indexes, dockets, journals, and case files as defined in this rule and Sup. R. 26.01 to 26.05. A court may replace any paper bound books with an electronic medium or microfilm in accordance with this rule.

(D) Allowable record media. (1) A court may create, maintain, record, copy, or preserve a record on traditional paper media, electronic media, including text or digital images, or microfilm, including computer output to microfilm.

(2) A court may create, maintain, record, copy, or preserve a record using any nationally accepted records and information management process, including photography, microfilm, and electronic data processing, as an alternative to paper. The process may be used in regard to the original or a copy of a record if the process produces an accurate record or copy and the process complies with American National Standards Institute ("ANSI") standards and guidelines or, in the event that ANSI standards cease to exist, other nationally accepted records and information management process standards.

(a) If a court creates, maintains, records, copies, or preserves a record using a records and information management process in accordance with division (D)(2) of this rule and the record is required to be retained in accordance with the schedules set forth in Sup. R. 26.01 to 26.05, the court shall cause a back-up copy of the record to be made at periodic and reasonable times to insure the security and continued availability of the information. If Sup. R. 26.01 to 26.05 require the record to be retained permanently, the back-up copy shall be stored in a different building than the record it secures (b) Records shall be maintained in conveniently accessible and secure facilities, and provisions shall be made for inspecting and copying any public records in accordance with applicable statutes and rules. Machines and equipment necessary to allow inspection and copying of public records, including public records that are created, maintained, recorded, copied, or preserved by an alternative records and information management process in accordance with division (D)(2) of this rule, shall be provided.

(c) In accordance with applicable law and purchasing requirements, a court may acquire equipment, computer software, and related supplies and services for records and information management processes authorized by division (D)(2) of this rule.

SupR 27. Standards Relative to the Use of Electronic Documents and Records; Approval of Local Rules of Court.

(A) Purpose and definitions. (1) This rule provides a process for establishing uniform, minimum standards for the use of electronic documents and records in the courts of Ohio. This rule is intended to facilitate the sharing of information between and among Ohio courts, reduce costs and provide consistency for practitioners and the public, and provide guidance to persons who develop information systems for use by Ohio courts. This rule shall be interpreted consistent with this intent and to allow for technological enhancements that improve the efficiency of Ohio courts.

(2) As used in this rule, "electronic" and "electronic signature" have the same meaning as used in section 1306.01 of the Revised Code

(B) Advisory Committee. The Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Technology and the Courts shall do all of the following:

(1) Promulgate and publish regulations governing the use of information technology in the courts of Ohio, including but not limited to all of the following:

a) Minimum, uniform standards relating to the creation, distribution, filing, and storage of and access to electronic documents;

(b) Minimum, uniform standards relating to the use of electronic signatures for electronic documents;

(c) Minimum, uniform standards for information and document systems;

(d) The process pursuant to which local rules of court are reviewed and approved by the committee pursuant to division (B) of this rule.

(2) Review local rules of court proposed pursuant to division (C) of this rule and approve those rules that satisfy the minimum, uniform standards adopted by the committee pursuant to division (B) of this rule.

(C) Approval of local rules. Before adopting any local rule of practice that relates to the use of information technology, a court shall submit a copy of the proposed local rule to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Technology and the Courts for review in accordance with the process established by the committee pursuant to division (B) of this rule. A local rule of practice that relates to the use of information technology shall be considered inconsistent with this rule and of no force and effect unless the committee determines that the local rule complies with the minimum, uniform standards adopted by the committee pursuant to division (B) of this rule.

(Effective 7-1-01)

Commentary (July 1, 2001 Amendments)

Rule 27 establishes a process to facilitate the development and application of uniform technology standards in the courts of Ohio. The rule contains two essential components. First, the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Technology and the Courts is charged with the responsibility of developing regulations governing the use of information technology in Ohio courts, including standards relative to the creation and filing of electronic documents and the use of electronic signatures on those documents. Second, the rule mandates that any local rule of court that relates to the use of electronic technology must be submitted, prior to adoption, to the advisory committee for review and approval to ensure compliance with the regulations promulgated by the advisory committee. Rule 27 specifies that a proposed local rule relating to the use of electronic technology is of no force or effect unless the advisory committee has first determined that the rule satisfies the minimum standards prescribed by the advisory committee.

The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) is a Federal law that grants public access to records or information of a federal agency. The FOIA, however, does not apply to State agencies or officers, nor do the exceptions codified in FOIA. As a result, FOIA’s various exceptions do NOT constitute “catchall” exceptions under Ohio ’s public records law. Under FOIA, federal agencies can withhold records where disclosure would constitute “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”  Ohio courts have concluded that the legislature already balanced privacy considerations when it enacted the various exceptions to disclosure, and these courts reject the invitation to apply the FOIA privacy exception to Ohio public records requests.