Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Courts records becoming less public in Okla.

Tulsa, Okla. - Oklahoma's district court judges are sealing thousands of court cases and documents — mostly because attorneys simply asked them to.

More than 2,300 cases statewide have received a judge's order to make at least one record in the file not available to the public, according to a Tulsa World analysis going back to 2003.

These records are added to a growing list of nonpublic court information, including that generated in drug courts, mental health courts and juvenile proceedings.

Records that are being sealed include financial records of companies and hospitals, settlements in wrongful-death lawsuits, divorce proceedings, protective orders and name changes.

Joey Senat, past president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma, said he was surprised by the amount of sealed records.

"I had heard of this going on in other states, but I'm really disappointed this is happening to the courts in our state," Senat said. "This is a real indication there are two systems — one for the rich and powerful and one for the rest of us. The public has been left out of this process.

For more on this story, go to The Tulsa World

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