A Milwaukee legislator who introduced legislation to create a bifurcated online system to prevent the misuse of state court records said he is reconsidering the bill and working on major changes.
State Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, along with Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, introduced a bill earlier this year that would give defendants who were found not guilty in criminal and civil cases – as well as cases involving restraining orders and evictions – a chance to request that the information be removed from the publicly accessible Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website. The website is commonly referred to as CCAP — Consolidated Court Automation Programs.
But Goyke said he now is rethinking the bill after receiving feedback on the proposal. A number of organizations, ranging from apartment associations to the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, came out against the bill.
Wisconsin State Courts Director John Voelker, at a Sept. 12 judiciary committee hearing on the bill, said it would cost about $500,000 to split court records into two websites as proposed. Goyke’s legislation proposed two systems: one for the public and another for groups including: court employees, law enforcement, attorneys, journalists, debt collectors, real-estate workers, financial-institution employees, landlords and those who prepare title reports for the sale and purchase of property
Voelker said it would then cost about $125,000 a year to maintain the two systems.
Goyke said he now is working on a substitute amendment that may still involve CCAP but could also include changes to court record expunction proceedings.
“I care more about easy access on CCAP than I do about destroying the file altogether or locking it through expungement,” Goyke said Friday. “That may be the simplest best avenue for us, just expunging the file.”
Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, who is on the judiciary committee, said he is reserving judgment on the changes until he sees more about Goyke’s substitute motion. He said certain situations, such as plea bargains, still need to be addressed before he takes a stance.
“I’m not comfortable stating where I’m at on a concept that needs to be much better,” Jacque said.
Expunction has been debated several times in the past decade. The Joint Legislative Council set up committees in 2007 and 2010 to look at possible legislation to allow records to be expunged for certain offenses. Neither committee ended up making any recommendations, however.
But Voelker, who is against Goyke’s CCAP proposal, said his office drafted a bill proposal that would, if passed, allow judges to expunge the records of cases for those who aren’t convicted. He said his office is searching for a legislator to sponsor the bill.
The proposal falls in line with current expunction proceedings for certain convictions, Voelker said, which sets an age limit of 25.
“It doesn’t ring true to me that we can have an expungement statute where a conviction can expunged,” he said, “but if you’re charge with the same crime and ended up being found not guilty in trial or [the charge is] dismissed by a prosecutor, we have no avenue.
“We’re trying to give judges a few more tools to deal with.”
Voelker said his office’s proposal also would ensure that all records are consistent, and not appear different in the physical file versus online.
Though his office has yet to find legislative support for its proposal, Voelker said he’s encouraged that there seems to be more interest in the expunction issue than in years past.
Goyke said he is similarly encouraged by the rising interest in court record concerns.
“No one at the hearing said someone wrongfully accused doesn’t deserve a way of clearing their name,” he said.