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Debate continues over attempt to limit CCAP

By: Eric Heisig//February 6, 2014//

Debate continues over attempt to limit CCAP

By: Eric Heisig//February 6, 2014//

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Supporters of a bill that would remove case information from the state courts’ online records system said Thursday that the harm it would undo far outweighs the loss of the public’s ability to easily obtain court records.

Assembly Bill 685, if passed, would require the state courts’ office to remove information about felony cases from the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website within 120 days of being notified that charges were dismissed or that a defendant was found not guilty. The same would go for civil forfeiture cases, though there would be a 90-day timetable.

Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, is backing the bill in the Assembly and has received bipartisan support, including from Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington. Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, is carrying it in the Senate.

Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, or WCCA, is commonly referred to as CCAP — Consolidated Court Automation Programs – which is a statewide, online case management system for the circuit courts. CCAP operates the WCCA system as its public access component.

Both sponsors testified Thursday during a public hearing in front of the Assembly’s corrections committee.

Czaja said the bill is similar to one put forward by Vos in 2007. The only difference, she said, would be that dropped charges that are read in when a defendant is sentenced would remain in the system.

She also said the bill considers “the needs of the innocent and how it affects them.”

Grothman reiterated that employers frequently use CCAP to vet a person, even if they aren’t supposed to use that information against them.

“Even if you commit a crime, the damage or penalty of having that on CCAP forever is much more damaging than the punishment itself,” Grothman said. “Ninety days in jail is a cakewalk compared with a permanent record that said you did something.”

James Gryczewski, an Ottawa resident who testified at the hearing, was arrested on sexual assault charges that were dropped within six months. Speaking before the Assembly committee on Thursday, Gryczewski, 55, said the information about his case has lost him a potential business deal and has resulted in him having an FBI file. He said he is concerned another potential deal may fall through for the same reason.

“I think when this person reads on CCAP about the allegations, they might be hesitant to offer me employment,” Gryczewski said.

Still, many of the bill’s opponents raised the same issues they have with previous attempts to make changes. Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said it is better to trust CCAP users to do the right thing than outright removing information.

If the proposed information is removed, he said, what it would leave behind essentially would be a registry of guilty people.

“Information about what happened in those individual cases is not going to disappear from the internet if you render CCAP much more limited,” Lueders said, explaining that news articles about notable cases will still be easily searchable.

Director of State Courts John Voelker said the bill would create two sets of records, since the physical records stored in county courthouses would not be affected.

“[The bill] provides partial relief to the individuals,” he said. “While they can’t get it electronically, somebody can still go and get the paper.”

Voelker also said he is working with Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, on a bill that addresses expunction.

The committee’s chair, Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, has not scheduled an executive session for the bill. Representatives gave little indication during the meeting on how a potential vote would go.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, told Grothman and Czaja that limiting the information may be problematic to members of the press, who regularly use CCAP for stories.

“I’m not exactly sure on how I’m going to vote on this bill,” Kleefisch said. “I agree with the intent but have reservations on limiting information.”

Grothman, in turn, reiterated his feelings that it’s wrong to “punish somebody because they might have been guilty.”


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