On January 1st the North Dakota court system allowed remote access to court records for the first time in history. KX News has been following the change and some of the unintended consequences that have followed. On Friday, January 10th, the Supreme Court released this statement on the North Dakota court website.
Effective Jan. 8, 2020, the Supreme Court has temporarily suspended remote online access to court records by anonymous users. This includes remote access to district court documents and expanded remote access to Supreme Court documents.
Anonymous users are members of the general public who have not been assigned a secure public access account based on their profession. Remote access is the ability to access records without having to physically visit a courthouse.
The Court implemented remote access to documents on Jan. 1, 2020, in an effort to make public court documents easier to access. The change was intended to alleviate barriers that made it time-consuming and expensive for people to access information that the public was already entitled to obtain.
Prior to making changes to the rule that allowed for remote access – Administrative Rule 41 – the Court spent nearly three years studying the issues related to access and provided a 90-day period for the public to offer comments.
The decision to allow remote access was predicated on having a 10-year history of privacy protections in place. Rule of Court 3.4 was implemented March 1, 2009 and required parties filing documents to ensure that certain information was not contained in publicly-accessible documents. The Court had expected there to be a very high degree of compliance with Rule of Court 3.4’s requirements, but decided to suspend remote access to documents after hearing concerns about private information still being included in court documents.
The Court remains committed to eliminating barriers to accessing public information. A timeframe for when anonymous remote user access will be reinstated, and the extent to which records will be available, has not been set.
Download the Court’s Order on Suspension of Anonymous Remote Public Access under Administrative Rule 41
KX News: Next steps for remote records