By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Keeping public records public

In 1989, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, ruled that public records can cease to be public once they’ve been compiled into a computerized, easy-to-access database.

Now the Court is hearing a case with some eerie similarities involving the names of people who sign petitions to place public-policy questions on the ballot. In the Guardian this week, I compare the two cases — and hope that Stevens, as one of his final acts before retiring this summer, will help keep public records public.

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  1. BP Myers

    @Dan wrote: creating the right of same-sex marriage.

    Interesting choice of words. Personally, I think the right to consort with or enter into contracts with anyone of your choosing was always there. Just took them a while to find it.

    As far as tough-guy Jacoby goes, whatever does he mean that folks who post public information should be “cracked down on hard.”

    The information is either public (which it should be) or it isn’t. Arguing that folks who post “public” information should be cracked down upon doesn’t sound to me like he is supportive of it at all.

  2. L.K. Collins

    Does anyone have any links to the any of the briefs/filings in the case file? Google and the SCOTUS web site has not been helpful in getting me to actual filings and briefs?

    Dan’s article, given it’s determined position to direct how Justice Stevens should vote does, not give a full picture of what the Constitutional question is that this actually before the court.

    I prefer reading the briefs and making my own determination

    Dan should note that, while the Supreme Court has wide discretion to expand its review of a case, it a) starts from the base question being asked by the appellant, and b) generally insists upon a reasonable legal/procedural basis for going beyond the specific question asked.

    I may not disagree with Dan’s position, but the reports of the questions asked by the conservative wing of the court during oral argument suggest that the issue at hand is more complex than Dan portrays in either his article in The Guardian or in his presentation here.

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