AUGUST 10, 2007
State, federal and local governments should severely limit public access to court records because it has led to discrimination against criminals, according to the legal professionâ??s influential national organization which claims to promote justice and respect for the law.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has actually proposed that state and federal laws be changed to deny public access to certain arrest and court records, even those of people convicted of serious crimes.
The powerful 400,000-member organization, which provides law school accreditation and assists lawyers and judges, believes ready access to court records has led to employment and housing discrimination for those returning to society after serving their prison sentences.
So the ABA has drafted a detailed seven-page proposal urging federal, state, territorial and local governments to limit existing public access to the judicial system. Under the plan, even felony convictions as well as closed criminal cases would be unavailable to the public and media.
Outraged representatives from various media organizations strongly oppose the measure, saying it would violate the First Amendment and make it harder to expose wrongdoing by police and even prosecutors.
Under the ABAâ??s proposal, some of the countryâ??s most famous cases would be permanently sealed. Examples include a hall-of-fame football player turned actor (O.J. Simpson) accused of double murder and another actor (Robert Blake) acquitted of murdering his young wife outside of a restaurant.
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