“With the assistance of Missouri’s Court Automation Committee, a statutory entity comprised of members from all three branches of government, the judiciary has been working toward this goal for a number of years,” Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson said. “Today’s orders will ensure court documents that are currently open to the public will be truly accessible to the public. These improvements will fundamentally change the way individuals access public court documents, while balancing the need to protect confidential information and ensure the overall security and reliability of our underlying case management system.”
The rule changes will not go into effect until July 1, 2023, partially due to the constitutionally required waiting period for certain court rules. The waiting period also gives the Court the opportunity to work with The Missouri Bar to educate attorneys, court staff, parties or anyone else offering documents for filing in any Missouri state court to keep unnecessary confidential information out of otherwise public documents and, when confidential information must be included, to redact that information to protect it from disclosure.
The redaction requirement is not new. Anyone filing documents in a Missouri court already has an obligation to redact confidential information as required by law, but the increased public access to court documents that will result from today’s order underscores the need for diligence and care in carrying out the redaction responsibility.
The expanded access will be available through Case.net. Since its inception in the 1990s, Case.net has provided remote access to some public information about cases. After electronic filing began in 2011, registered e-filing users had remote access to case documents, while the public could use designated Case.net computer terminals in courthouses statewide to view public case documents.
The expanded access to public case documents will be prospective only – available only for documents filed on or after July 1, 2023. Documents filed before that date will continue to be available at the public access terminals in every state courthouse.