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More clarity from Case Search?

One reason I’m looking forward to electronic filing in state courts is to retire one of my favorite pastimes: deciphering the results on Maryland Judiciary Case Search.

Trying to make sense of the entries in a case file online sometimes is like trying to put jigsaw puzzle together without any corner pieces. Recently, however, I noticed a new message popping up in some searches: “No electronic record exists or case not subject to electronic inspection.”

According to the Judiciary, the message was created to comply with state laws requiring certain case information to be protected from public inspection. Online records apparently can’t reveal names of victims or witnesses in criminal, juvenile delinquency or domestic violence cases. I say “apparently” because I don’t believe I’ve ever seen those names online, so I’m not sure if they are restating a rule or making a new one.

Then there’s this doozy to wrap your head around:

Case Search does not confirm the existence of such a case because that would reveal the confidential name of the person. At the same time, it cannot deny the existence of a case that does exist.

But if you’re looking for the actual case file, remember: assume it’s available for public consumption and ask the clerk why not if told otherwise.