Wednesday, March 01, 2006

France Proposes "Anonymizing" Court Decisions

Last October, my posting Judicial Council Recommends Limited Net Access to Court Records discussed a controversy over proposals by the Canadian Judicial Council to introduce certain restrictions to electronic access to court information.

The Council proposed that personal information be deleted from court documents and decisions made publicly accessible over the Internet (phone numbers, addresses and social insurance numbers, etc.).

French law blogger Emmamuel Barthe reports on a recommendation by France's Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés or CNIL (a national privacy protection commission) that new legislative measures be introduced to ensure that all personal information (names and addresses of parties and witnesses) is removed from court judgments, whether available online for free (official websites) or via commercial databases (subscription or password-protected websites or CD-ROMs).

Anonymization of case law reporting will have obvious consequences for French legal editors, as Barthe notes. They will need to adopt neutral legal citation (Barthe refers specifically to the Canadian Citation Committee's work on the issue) and agree on the use of common tribunal identifier codes and case file numbers.

Already, many European countries anonymize their judgments. The CNIL reported in a January 2006 "bilan" (summary) that this is achieved either through a national law (Czech Republic, Estonia, Sweden) or through a decision by the national privacy protection authority (Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Lithuania).

Other countries, explains the CNIL, decided a long time ago to strip personal identifiers from court decisions no matter what the format: Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Greece.

And the European Union recently conducted a study of how different member states treat case law databases and websites. The study shows that the remaining states are interested in removing personal information from published court decisions (Romania, Slovakia, Norway, Spain).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:39 pm


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