Emergency meeting called over court database change

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A screenshot from the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website.

The Maryland Judiciary will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to consider changes to a rule that wiped police officers’ names from online court records.

Journalists and attorneys were in an uproar last week once the change was noticed and officers’ names disappeared. As WBAL-TV’s Jayne Miller showed on Twitter, dozens of cases that listed the recently convicted Gun Trace Task Force officer Daniel Hersl were no longer searchable online. That’s just one example.

In a letter released today, retired Court of Appeals Judge Alan M. Wilner*, the chair of the rules committee, called the decision “a mistake” and said the stricken language that allowed for the removal of officers’ names could be restored.

Critics said the change was a blow to transparency and police accountability, which was particularly troubling in light of the GTTF case. Over the weekend, Thiru Vignarajah, a candidate for state’s attorney in Baltimore, released a database of cases from 2010 to July 2017 with all the information intact.

In response to the initial outcry, the court system released a statement defending the process that yielded the change and said all of the information could be found by pulling the files at the office of the clerk.

A spokesman with the Anne Arundel County Police Department told The Sun they had been pushing for having first names removed, and were surprised to see that full names were gone entirely.

The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Court of Appeals’ Conference Room on the fourth floor of the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building in Annapolis.

*An earlier version of this post said Alan M. Wilner is still on the bench. He is in fact retired. Baltimore Fishbowl regrets the error.

Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore Business Journal, b and others. Prior to joining Baltimore Fishbowl, he was an editor at City Paper from 2012 to 2017. He can be reached at [email protected]
Brandon Weigel

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