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Our View: Politicians: Don’t mess with court access system

We live in a day and age when information comes at us from many directions. The danger is that people may not recognize when a source of critical information could be silenced.

Such is the case in Wisconsin where a group of senators have sponsored a bill to “rob” the state’s online court records system of information about criminal cases. The Wisconsin Circuit Court Access system — known as CCAP — makes information available to the public on all cases entered into the court system. CCAP is designed as not just a record of criminal convictions, but to show how the court works — with charging information, motions filed and eventual pleas or convictions.

Senate Bill 526, sponsored by Senators Grothman R-West Bend, L. Taylor D-Milwaukee, Schultz R-Richland Center, Harris D-Milwaukee and Risser D-Madison, would purge the state’s online court records system of information about criminal cases that do not lead to convictions or are overturned on appeal.

Notice the bipartisan nature of sponsoring senators. Should we be surprised that politicians can cross the party divide when it comes to suppressing free and open access to public records? By the way, state Rep. John Murtha, R-Baldwin, is a co-sponsor of this bill in the Assembly.

SB 526 is a serious attempt to deprive the public of full and accurate information about the state’s court system through CCAP. It is on the fast track to passage despite opposition from Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the Wisconsin Broadcast Association, the Freedom of Information Council, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Director of State Courts John Voelker, individual clerks of court and representatives of property owners.

We believe that the people of Wisconsin can be trusted to make appropriate use of the information on this system; that they don’t need lawmakers stepping in to prevent them from knowing what is happening in the court system they pay for.