Though the possibility of shielding the first names of police officers in electronic records came up last month when the Court of Appeals met to undo a change to the rule governing Case Search, the issue is not on next week’s rules committee agenda.
The Court of Appeals held an emergency meeting March 6 and restored deleted language from the rule on remote access to case records, which caused the names of police officers involved in criminal matters to disappear from the Case Search database.
When news of the change broke in early March, the Maryland Judiciary issued a statement that the rules were amended “transparently, through a process open to the public and press.” The statement concluded by encouraging the public to “check the Judiciary website periodically to keep abreast of proposed Rules changes.”
The Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure will meet April 13 and consider amendments to rules on everything from discovery to electronic filing. But so far, there are no proposed amendments to the rules governing the Maryland Judiciary Case Search.
Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera and retired Judge Alan M. Wilner, who chairs the committee, both said removing officer names was a mistake. Wilner said a change to the rule was considered at the request of a police organization concerned about officers’ full names being displayed, but the change was rejected.
At the March 6 meeting, Judge Sally D. Adkins questioned advocates opposed to the rule change about the possibility of moving to a policy of only including an officer’s first initial and last name.
Attorneys who assist citizens with expungements said many jurisdictions won’t accept forms that do not have an officer’s full name, and Case Search is typically where they find that information. Others pointed out that common last names could lead to confusion when identifying officers and serving them with lawsuits.