January 30, 2007

Far be it from me to criticize the sources of revenue for the local government, but the County of Los Angeles last year made a profit of $3.6 million in fees from online searches of Superior Court cases. Most judicial districts either give the info away for free as a public service, or charge a nominal fee. Sweet.


Grace said...

This is an example of inaccurate reporting, and Patterico should post something about this, if he hasn't already. The article gets comparative quotes from county courts that do not provide the kind of information that Los Angeles Superior Court does; if you don't have much to sell, you can give it away for free. Anyone can go down to the Central Courthouse and obtain free searches there. The fee which the Times calls "profit" goes right back into the computer systems maintained by the Court to provide the case information, which includes expensive security systems (as a party, you wouldn't want some outsider hacking into your case file, would you). Funding for the Los Angeles Superior Court comes from the state budget, and the courts are severly underfunded. It would be great if the online case searches and document requests could "profit" the court, but it believes providing access to public information is important so it uses those monies to keep that system operating. You probably haven't been in a county courthouse in a while--many are seriously in need of repair, and there are a bunch of other necessities that I don't have time to list. It would be nice if the Times took the trouble to get all sides of the story before printing something that causes people to question part of our justice system, but I guess this kind of reporting is just par for the course.

Steve Smith said...

Actually, you can get free searches from any Superior Court location, as far as I can tell. I probably have at least one appearance a week in the Superior Court, and some courthouses are in need of repair (Van Nuys and Huntington Park are almost jaw-droppingly bad). I don't have a problem with charging people for obtaining pleadings and such from a court file, but I should point out that Orange and Ventura Counties both provide case name and number access to files online for free, and the federal courts do the same for a nominal charge ($.08 a page), while LA charges a few dollars for every search, and $7.50 to download a pleading. To me, that's rather steep.