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Miami�Fearing online dissemination of sensitive personal information, Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead of the Florida Supreme Court has declared an 18-month moratorium on posting state court trial documents on the Internet. “Current regulation of confidential information is minimal at best,” Anstead said in a statement accompanying the administrative order. “Because it will take time to develop a uniform policy, I am directing that bulk electronic distribution of court records cease temporarily.” The moratorium, issued on Nov. 25, will have little impact on the information on the official Web sites of most of the state’s trial-level circuit courts, including those in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. That’s because most courts currently do not post entire court files. The moratorium applies to such documents as motions, court orders, briefs, police reports, affidavits and complaints. The current information on most circuit court Web sites, such as court dockets, court calendars, liens, deeds and title searches, are exempt from the moratorium, as are appellate filings, traffic court records and cases the chief judge of the jurisdiction designates as issues of significant public interest. “We have nothing on our Web site now affected by the administrative order,” said Dorothy Wilken, the Palm Beach County court clerk. Other clerks, notably Manatee County’s Chips Shore, had posted entire documents for traffic and civil cases, and planned to post filings in criminal cases. Since Anstead’s order, Shore has shut down his office’s Web site and has posted a notice advising visitors that he was disabling electronic access to court records pending legal review. “I hope to reinstate access within the next week if I am able to do so or if I should decide to challenge the order,” Shore wrote. Anstead’s order will temporarily affect how much access lawyers have to detailed court records on the Internet, and could affect the efforts by data aggregation companies to distribute court information electronically. Florida law requires court clerks to have electronic images of documents on the Internet by Jan. 1, 2006. At least seven counties have placed some records online, but what’s available differs among jurisdictions. Entire court files may become accessible worldwide, which concerns privacy advocates and others. They worry that identity thieves could use information commonly found in court files, such as Social Security numbers, medical reports and financial records, to commit fraud. They are also concerned that the sensational but unfounded allegations sometimes seen in divorce and child custody cases will be widely disseminated and violate individuals’ privacy rights.

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