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A commission to advise the judiciary on possible privacy interests affected by the posting of New York state court case files on the Internet was appointed Wednesday with First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams as chairman. Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals announced the appointment of a 22-member panel, the Commission on Public Access to Court Records, which is expected to issue a report with findings and recommendations by next year. New York’s Office of Court Administration has begun posting court dates and some orders and decisions in a PDF-format on its e-court Web site, e.courts.state.ny.us. But court officials anticipate a sea change when the volume of material now consigned to file folders on storeroom shelves will be available to anyone with a computer at any time. “We see the whole world changing over the next decade,” said Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman. With the posting of motion papers, stipulations, orders and decisions, “there will be a totally new level of openness, but we don’t want to do that willy nilly.” Abrams, of New York’s Cahill Gordon & Reindel, said the commission would initially interview people with special knowledge, including judges, court administrators, media representatives and victims’ rights advocates, to get a range of perspectives. Eventually there will be public hearings around the state, he said. The commission will not focus on changing the current status of court records, such as statutory requirements that seal certain matrimonial and Family Court matters from public disclosure, and protective orders that are issued to protect trade secrets, Judge Lippman said. But it will examine issues raised by the availability of technology that allows easy access to sometimes sensitive personal information in court documents seven days a week, 24 hours a day, he said. Some in the media believe that once a document is deemed public, it should be public for all purposes, said Abrams, a frequent advocate for publishers and broadcasters. One of the things the commission will have to do is explore the new nature of the post-Internet information that could lead to bad or dangerous results if disclosed, he said. About two years ago, the state courts began putting calendars and decisions online. Now all 62 counties have docket and calendar information for all pending civil supreme court matters online. Some or all decisions from trial courts, ranging from City Court in Binghamton to Supreme Court in Manhattan, are online for 25 of the 62 counties; a total of 79,833 decisions to date, said Noel D. Adler, director of technology for OCA. The commission members appointed by Chief Judge Kaye include: Stephanie Abrutyn of the Tribune Co.; Yochai Benkler, a professor at New York University School of Law; Elizabeth Bryson of New York Life Insurance Co.; Hugh W. Campbell of Rodman and Campbell in the Bronx; Christopher E. Chang of the Law Offices of Christopher E. Chang; Julie Domonkos, executive director of My Sister’s Place in White Plains, N.Y.; William P. Farley of The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.; Thomas F. Gleason, of Gleason, Dunn, Walsh & O’Shea in Albany, N.Y.; Maria L. Imperial, executive director of the City Bar Fund of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York; Pamela Jones Harbour of Kaye Scholer; and Victor Kovner of Seattle-based Davis Wright Tremaine. Also appointed were: Joseph Lelyveld, former correspondent and editor of The New York Times; David Miranda of Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti in Albany; Presiding Justice Gail Prudenti of the Appellate Division, 2nd Department; Charles S. Sims of New York’s Proskauer Rose; Gary D. Spivey, New York State Reporter in Albany; Norman Goodman, County Clerk, New York County; Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo of the Court of Appeals in Albany; Richard F. Griffin of Phillips, Lytle, Hitchcock, Blaine & Huber in Buffalo, N.Y.; Charles A. Stillman of New York’s Stillman & Friedman; and Nadine Strossen, a professor at New York Law School and president of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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