PUBLIC RECORDS POLICY
We are an open government. We welcome participation by our citizens. We believe openness leads to a better informed public, which leads to a more transparent government and better public policy. Citizens are entitled to access government records and Ohio’s Public Records Act, Ohio Revised Code 149.43, should be interpreted liberally in favor of disclosure.
Definition Of Public Records
Under Ohio law, public records are those items that meet all of the following elements:
- 1. any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including
- an electronic record;
- 2. that is created or received by, or coming under the jurisdiction of a public office; and
- 3. that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures,
- operations, or other activities of the office. This does not include records kept for our
- administrative convenience.
You may ask for a copy of our records retention schedule, which will familiarize you with the
types of records available.
Exempted Records That Will Not Be Released
Under Ohio law, some records that meet the above three elements will still be withheld from release because state of federal law makes the record confidential. Some commonly requested records that are confidential include:
- 1. Attorney-client privileged information and trial preparation records.
- 2. Social Security numbers.
- 3. Records of ongoing investigations.
- 4. Medical Records.
- 5. BMV records.
- 6. Records that a judge ordered to be sealed per a statute.
- 7. Residential and familial information of peace officers, firefighters, EMT’s, prosecutors, children’s services workers and corrections officers.
How To Make A Public Records Request
We will provide prompt inspection of public records and copies of public records in a reasonable period of time. When you make a request, we will ask you to complete a “Public Records Request Form,” which will help us locate the records and expedite your request. This form is not available online. You are not legally required to fill out the form, identify yourself, or give the purpose of your request. If the records cannot be provided while you wait, we will contact you when the records are available.
For copies of public records on 8.5 x 11 inch one sided paper in black ink, the copy cost is ten cents per page. We may require you to pay the estimated copy costs before copies are made. All other copies (e.g., photos, disks, etc.) will be provided at actual cost. If records are mailed to you, we may charge you in advance for postage and the cost of mailing materials.
Whenever a person or entity cannot or will not certify to the Clerk of Courts in writing that the person or entity does not intend to use or forward the requested records or the information contained in them for commercial purposes, the Clerk of Courts shall treat the request as a commercial request.
For commercial requests, the Clerk of Courts will transmit by United States Mail no more than ten (10) records per month, per commercial requestor. The public records shall be transmitted by United States Mail within a reasonable period of time after receiving the request. The person or entity making the commercial request must pay in advance the cost of postage and other supplies used in the mailing.
For purposes of this policy, “commercial” shall be narrowly construed and does not include reporting or gathering news, reporting or gathering information to assist citizen oversight or understanding of the operation or activities of government, or non-profit educational research.
If you have questions about a specific public records request made to the Clerk of Courts, please contact the Paper Room at (513) 946-5692.
For more information on Ohio’s Public Records Law, please visit www.ohio.gov.
Hamilton County Internet Privacy Task Force:
Findings – December, 2004
This Task Force met regularly during the winter and spring months of 2004 to consider appropriate guidelines for the management of the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts’ web site. It considered and adopted many of the recommendations of the CCJ/COSCA Guidelines for Public Access to Court Records as published in October 2002 and the format and content of this document reflect its reliance thereon. The Task Force recognizes the inherent authority of the Clerk of Courts to manage its records maintaining the appropriate balance of free access principles and individual privacy interests. The Task Force also recognizes the perspective of the legislature and the Public Records laws contained in Ohio Revised Code section 149.43 et sec.
This Task Force recommends that the Hamilton County Courts adopt a local rule managing publication of court records on the Internet that is consistent with these guidelines.
I. Guiding Principles
(A) The Clerk of Courts should provide for access to Court Records in a manner that:
- (1) Protects individual privacy rights and interests,
- (2) Protects proprietary business information,
- (3) Maximizes accessibility to court records,
- (4) Supports the role of the judiciary,
- (5) Promotes governmental accountability,
- (6) Contributes to public safety,
- (7) Minimizes risk of injury to individuals,
- (8) Minimizes reluctance to use the court to resolve disputes,
- (9) Makes most effective use of Court and Clerk of Courts staff,
- (10) Provides excellent customer service, and
- (11) Does not unduly burden the ongoing business of the judiciary.
II. Court Records
Court records fall into three primary categories:
(A) The official records of the Clerk of Courts as required by O.R.C. §2303, which includes the appearance docket, trial docket, journal, and execution docket, indexes thereto, the individual case files that hold official original documents filed by the parties or the Court.
(B) Exhibits, reports, transcripts, or other records filed with the court or Clerk of Courts in connection with a particular case.
(C) Schedules, rules, lists of addresses and phone numbers, and other information about the operations or practices of the courts that are provided to improve the efficient operation of the Courts or Clerk of Courts office.
III. Access and Publication
(A) Every member of the public should have the same access to court records as provided in these guidelines, except as provided in section III(E).
(B) The public may inspect and obtain a copy of the information or documents in a court record at the office of the Clerk of Courts either by access to physical documents or by electronic access to records maintained in electronic form pursuant to law. Copies of records maintained in electronic form should be provided by the Clerk in an efficient and cost effective manner.
(C) The Clerk should, within practical and financial limits, publish and provide the ability to electronically search, inspect, or copy most court records, subject to exclusions below, without the need to physically visit the court facility where the court record is maintained. This ability is provided through publication on the Clerk of Courts Internet web site.
(D) Court Records That Should Only be Publicly Accessible at a Court Facility:
- (a) The following information in a court record that is not sealed should be publicly accessible only at a court facility and not on the Internet web site:
- 1. Traffic Tickets, criminal warrants and police referral records containing Social Security Numbers and other identifying information.
- 2. Bond Information Sheets that contain surety information.
- 3. Applications for Civil Protection Orders that are pending until a final order is granted.
- 4. Domestic Relations filings other than the complaint, answer, and decree.
- 5. Domestic Relations Family Files.
- 6. Information regarding jurors, victims, and children.
- 7. Personal financial information about individuals offered by counsel for separate filings that are not otherwise sealed.
- 8. Personal Physical Health or Mental Health information about individuals offered by counsel for separate filing that are not otherwise sealed.
- 9. Search Warrants and Affidavits in support thereof.
- 10. Transcripts prepared for appeal or of depositions prepared for trial.
- 11. Trial exhibits held in the custody of the official Court Reporter.
- (b) A request to limit Internet publication of information in a court record may be made by any party to a case, an individual identified in the court record, or on the court’s own motion. For good cause the court may limit the Internet publication of court records. In limiting the Internet publication of court records the court should use the least restrictive means that achieves the purposes of the access policy and the needs of the requestor. Application forms for this purpose should be developed and made available by the Clerk of Courts. (Removal from Internet publications has no effect on CMS or the official record of the Clerk.)
(E) Court Records Excluded From Public Access (Sealed Records): Information sealed or not available pursuant to Court order or state or federal law is not accessible to the public and should not be published on the Internet.
(F) Limited Remote access to Court Record through the Internet: As technology allows, the Clerk should develop a system to provide secure remote access to Court Records over the Internet to Court authorized individuals, parties, counsel, Court officers and staff that are otherwise available only at a Court facility.
(G) Mass Data Extractions: In many circumstances, the Clerk of Courts office is asked to sell large parts of the electronic database to outside vendors. This occasionally may lead to circumstances where the electronic record maintained by the vendor is not wholly accurate as cases are sometimes sealed, expunged, or otherwise altered in the Clerk of Courts file. This Task Force recommends a cessation of such mass data extractions to the extent allowable by law.
IV. Information and Education Regarding Access Policy
(A) Dissemination of Information to Litigants about Access to Information in Court Records:
- (1) The court should make information available to litigants and the public that information in the court record about them is accessible to the public, including over the Internet and how to request to restrict the manner of access or to prohibit public access.
(B) Dissemination of Information to the Public about Accessing Court Records:
- (1)The Court should develop and make information available to the public about how to obtain access to court records pursuant to these guidelines.
(C) Education of Judges and Court Personnel about an Access Policy:
- (1)The Court and Clerk of Courts should educate and train their personnel to comply with an access policy so that Court and Clerk of Courts offices respond to requests for access to information in the court record in a manner consistent with this policy.
- The Presiding Judge shall insure that all judges are informed about the access policy.
The above report and recommendations were adopted and approved by the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Privacy Task Force by majority vote of its members listed below.
MIKE S. BARRON KIM B. BURKE CATHY R. COOK KARL KADON DAVID KOHNEN ELIZABETH B. MATTINGLY GEORGE D. MOLINSKY RONALD E. PANIOTO MELISSA A. POWERS PETER ROSENWALD FANON A. RUCKER MARK R. SCHWEIKERT RAYMOND E. SHANNON ALEXANDER M. TRIANTAFILOU MICHAEL L. WALTON VICTOR A. WALTON, JR.
Adopted December, 2004
The Hamilton County Courts have adopted local rules managing publication of court records on the Internet which are consistent with these guidelines:
Links from external websites to www.courtclerk.org are acceptable but must follow the following guidelines:
- www.courtclerk.org must be provided its own window with full window resizing controls available to the user. It is not acceptable to load www.courtclerk.org into a frame within another web site.
- The contents of www.courtclerk.org should not be filtered or modified in a manner to purposefully alter the content of the web site.
Links from www.courtclerk.org to outside web sites are provided for the convenience of the user. We are not responsible for the availability, content or privacy practices of these other sites. For information about the privacy practices of other sites, see the privacy statement of the site, if available.
3. Unauthorized Utilization & Alteration
Users of www.courtclerk.org are expressly prohibited from reproducing, publishing on-line, selling, reselling or otherwise disseminating data or information accessed pursuant to this policy, except as permitted by law. The information accessed is not intended or permitted to be used for commercial resale, except as permitted by law.
The submission of purposefully harmful form data is prohibited and any users doing so will be blocked from the site and face potential legal action. Lewd or perverse content is also forbidden from being used or submitted (i.e. usernames, passwords, etc.) and doing so constitutes grounds for permanent denial of service to a portion of or the entire site.
Images and Documents
The images and documents contained on www.courtclerk.org are the property of Hamilton County Clerk of Courts. These images and documents may be saved to a local computer for later viewing but may not be modified in any way. Additionally, legal documents may not be posted or referenced either on or off the internet, especially in a manner to insinuate that they are the “official” or “original” documents. Instead links may be provided to the appropriate document or content on www.courtclerk.org.
The use of robots, scripts, code or any other executables to access www.courtclerk.org is forbidden except in the following cases:
- The web site is being spidered for referencing in a search engine of HTML pages and online forms only.
- The express written consent of the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts was provided allowing automated access of the site. Any requests for automated access can be sent to the Webmaster and will be forwarded for consideration.
- Automated robots or scripts with permission to access www.courtclerk.org must announce themselves using the User-Agent field of Hypertext Transfer Protocol as documented here: http://www.w3.org/hypertext/WWW/Protocols/HTTP1.0/draft-ietf-http-spec.html#User-Agent
The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts reserves the right to either temporarily or permanently block access to www.courtclerk.org to robots, spiders and other “web agents” that disregard or violate this policy. Additionally, the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts reserves the right to either temporarily or permanently block access to www.courtclerk.org for any user, proxy server, robot, spider or other “web agent” that causes an unnecessarily large load on the site whether purposefully or due to hardware or software problems on their local machine.
The use of robots, scripts, or any other programs with the intent of automated data extraction is expressly forbidden without prior consent as listed above. Any violation will constitute either the temporary or permanent blocking of the source of any such automated extraction attempts.
5. Availability of Data & Services
The information provided through this web site is extracted from the Clerk’s electronic records database. Therefore, the information available through this site is not warranted to be accurate or current. Only the official court records available from the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, available in person, should be relied upon as accurate and current. This web site is intended to be available seven days a week and twenty-four hours a day but the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts makes no guarantee in this regard. The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts will not be held liable for any problems, late payment fees or other issues resulting from the inaccessibility of www.courtclerk.org.
In order for www.courtclerk.org to fully function it is important to access the site following the web compatibility standards. The accessibility of www.courtclerk.org online is subject to the terms set in the Availability of Data and Services.
7. Intrusion Detection Monitoring
Our log files, firewall and other hardware and software are utilized by the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts to monitor for intrusion/unauthorized access. Any attempts to modify, disable, or circumvent these systems is forbidden and will be subject to prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
The Information We Collect & How We Use It
The information collected by www.courtclerk.org from visitors becomes the property of the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts to be used for internal purposes and as stated below. This data will not be provided or sold to third parties under any circumstance.
In order to generate usage statistics to help us improve our web site, we automatically collect information on every visit without identifying the visitor. The following information is compiled to produce web usage statistics and for the security of the site:
- the visitor’s IP address
- the Internet address of the site from which the visitor linked to our site
- the page visited
- any form data that the user submits
Temporary cookies may be used when necessary by our web server software to complete a transaction or to maintain the state of the connection (for example, the Portfolio of Cases functionality). Cookies can be manually cleared from the user’s system before and after visiting www.courtclerk.org with no detriment to the functionality of the site.
Online Forms and E-mail
We only collect personal information when necessary to process transactions. Any personal information voluntarily provided by visitors, including personal information from online forms and transactions will be used for the purpose stated on the web page on which it was collected. Information collected on our web site is subject to Ohio Public Records Law except as otherwise provided by Ohio or federal law.
Information provided to us for use in the processing of online payments may be permanently retained by the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts and used for auditing purposes.
E-mail E-mail sent to us may be shared with our staff and other county departments in order to respond to or process the e-mail and should not be considered confidential. Information collected through e-mail sent to us is generally subject to Ohio Public Records Law except as otherwise provided by Ohio or federal law.
NOTE: E-mail is a non-secure method of communication. No sensitive or private information should be transmitted to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts via e-mail.
8. How to Contact Us
You can find all contact information available on the Contact Us page of the site. This contact falls under policies of contact set forth in this document.
SSL encryption is used to protect sensitive information that is submitted to us during online payment transactions (for example, Online Parking Ticket Payment). However, it is not the responsibility of the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts to ensure that the browser software used to voluntarily submit payments is capable of “secure” transactions. It is extremely important that the user ensure that a secure connection has been established prior to submitting any sensitive or private data.
NOTE: Email is a non-secure method of communication. No sensitive or private information should be transmitted to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts via e-mail.
Errors found in case information or in case documents can be reported to the Webmaster or by the other means listed on the Contact Us page. Errors will be researched and addressed appropriately in a timely manner on a case by case basis.
Violations of any of the policies set forth in this document are grounds for possible prohibition from the site or prosecution as the law and the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts deems appropriate.
12. Limitation of Liability
Without waiving any other defenses or immunities provided by law, the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts shall not be liable for any demand or claim, regardless of form of action, arising out of or incident to the posting of information or data on this web site, the accessing or use of any information or data on this web site, and/or the acts or omissions of any person or entity accessing or use of any information from this web site. This includes, but is not limited to, claims arising out of or incident to incorrect or incomplete data or information accessed pursuant to these policies. All users are advised to independently verify any information or data obtained pursuant to these policies with the official court record information reposing in the court files. The user agrees that the services are provided “as is”; neither the Clerk, the custodians and/or their third-party providers make any representation nor warranty with respect to accuracy, completeness, or currentness; and they specifically disclaim any other warranty, express, implied or statutory, including any warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. Neither the Clerk, its officers, employees and agents, nor the custodians of records being accessed expressly or impliedly warrant that the information or data accessed by the user is accurate or correct. There are no expressed or implied warranties in connection with this service. They shall not be liable on account of any such errors, omissions, delays, or losses. The user agrees that in no event will the Clerk, the custodians and/or their third-party providers be liable for the results of the user’s use of the services, inability or failure to conduct its business, or for indirect, special or consequential damages. The foregoing limitation of liability and exclusion of certain damages shall apply regardless of the success or effectiveness of other remedies.
By using this site you agree to the policies set forth in this document and hereby relieve and release the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, its officers, employees, agents, and custodians from liability from any and all damages resulting from the use of www.courtclerk.org in any way.
As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions which may be sent to the Webmaster.