Court seeks comments on access

A Nevada Supreme Court commission is seeking public input on recommendations that may limit or deny public access to information contained in temporary protective orders.

At issue is whether temporary protective orders should automatically be classified as confidential, with access available only with a judge's order. The Commission on Access, Preservation and Sealing of Court Records is also looking at whether a victim of a sex crime or domestic violence can apply for a protective order under a pseudonym.

On June 3, the commission will host a public meeting to gather input on proposed changes to court records policy, especially regarding public access and confidentiality. The June 3 meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Supreme Court building in Carson City and will be videoconferenced at the high court's Las Vegas office on the 17th floor of the Regional Justice Center.

Public comment can be submitted in writing until 5 p.m. Monday to the Supreme Court Clerk's Office, 201 South Carson Street, Carson City, NV 89701. The original statement and eight copies should be included.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada already has weighed in, saying: "We have reviewed these draft rules in keeping with these principles, and believe that many of the rules allow far too much discretion to evidence custodians, permit the government to offer vague or generalized reasons to support sealing records, or just flatly violate the press' right to First Amendment access to items of interest."

Issues set for discussion at the commission meeting include 2009 legislation that allows sexual assault victims to apply for protective orders. According to the commission, state law already in effect requires confidentiality in such cases, which conflicts with the new law.

The commission is considering a recommendation to allow a victim to waive confidentiality, or be allowed to use a pseudonym. Critics have raised due process concerns and fear that false claims could be filed with virtual impunity.

The commission will also consider whether the Supreme Court should adopt rules governing the retention of records in all types of protective orders. Currently, policy only addresses restraining orders issued in domestic relations cases, which call for a two-year retention.

There is no standardized policy when it comes to access to the five other types of temporary protective orders.

It also will consider locking out electronic access to protective orders and look at ways to ensure police reports and other exhibits that contain Social Security numbers and other personal information are redacted before release to the public.

The high court also might create an authority that would allow the recipient of a protection order to apply for the case to be sealed or expunged after five years.