June 24th, 2007
Help available covering diversity stories in court
By Leo Laurence
When you realize that most of those in jail in our major cities are ethnic minorities and Gays, reporters doing investigative stories on those cases may need some help with access to the courts.
Many states – but not all – provide electronic access to their court records, making research on a story easier from your newsroom.
“Each state, and quite often each county within each state, has different systems and policies with regards to electronic access to court records,” according to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press in its current Spring 2007 issue of The News Media and The Law.
In the vast majority of states, their Supreme Court and lower appellate courts, put their opinions online. Electronic access to appellate briefs, however, is somewhat limited, though it is available online in California. At the trial court level, case information is less likely to be available online.
The current issue of The News Media and The Law has a survey with detailed information for each state, including who you can contact to get information online. The guide was compiled by McCormick Tribune Legal Fellow Catherine Spratt and was funded by the McCormick Tribune Foundation.