Regular readers are doubtless conscious of the Daily Report/Area Arrests lists that seem within the newspaper. It contains the names of the arrestees, their age, their hometown and the fees in opposition to them.
Our cops and courts reporter routinely checks the arrest information on the public entry terminal within the courthouse to collect this info. Usually included within the file are the title and tackle of the defendant, officer, Justice of the Peace, prosecutor (workplace tackle, by no means private), what the fees had been, case quantity, defendant’s date of delivery, arrest date, bond quantity and future courtroom dates. But she seen, beginning firstly of this month, the addresses of everybody talked about above had been gone — the defendant’s private tackle, in addition to the workplace addresses of the courtroom officers.
She reached out and was directed to Jennifer Bundy, the general public info officer for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, who advised her that the addresses for all concerned within the charging or prosecuting of a criminal offense — together with the defendant — have been faraway from public entry terminals whereas the courts discover a option to be compliant with Daniel’s Law.
SB 470 was handed within the 2021 legislative session and instructions authorities businesses to not launch the house tackle, Social Security quantity, credit score or debit card numbers, driver’s license ID numbers and the marital standing/former authorized title of any state officers, staff, retirees or their dependents. Within SB 470 is a piece titled Daniel’s Law, which says authorities businesses can’t disclose the house tackle or private telephone variety of any lively, previously lively or retired judicial officer, prosecutor, federal or state public (or assistant public) defender, legislation enforcement officer or any of their instant household.
The language of the invoice is smart. It’s not a foul thought to guard the non-public info of courtroom officers, legislation enforcement officers and their households in order that they aren’t harassed.
What doesn’t make sense is why the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals believes this could apply to all defendants in addition to officers’ office addresses (which ought to be public file). Cherrie James, a monetary analyst for the Supreme Court of Appeals, says that “maintaining employment and dependent status for select individuals” is just too troublesome, and that’s why the courtroom made the blanket choice.
Unless there’s big overlap of present and former authorities staff, judges and their households and other people being arrested and charged with a criminal offense, it shouldn’t be too cumbersome to withhold defendants’ info on a case-by-case foundation.
Why can we care? A pair causes. First, defendants’ addresses assist us — and our readers — distinguish one John Smith or Jane Doe from one other. John Smith from Morgantown gained’t need his neighbors to assume he was arrested for promoting medicine when it was John Smith from Detroit. Second, anytime the federal government begins to withhold beforehand accessible info, it’s a trigger for concern. The public has a proper to understand how their authorities is working; we want transparency for that.
As it stands, the Court of Appeals’ choice looks as if an excessive overreaction and yet one more method the federal government seeks to cover from public remark.