Mont. Supreme Court considers access restrictions

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The Montana Supreme Court is considering restrictions to public access of certain information now available throughout the court system, including a proposal to seal all documents filed in family law cases except for final orders.

Freedom of information advocates say the proposals are unnecessary and would run counter to the right-to-know provisions in the state constitution.

The Supreme Court put the recommendations out for public comment on Dec. 7. The comment period will last for 90 days.

State Law Librarian Judith Meadows, one of the authors of the proposals, said a change is needed because the court system's existing privacy rules aren't being applied evenly and people not represented by lawyers don't understand them.

That means sensitive information about children involved a custody dispute, divorce or another court proceeding could find its way to the Internet, where it could be gathered by child predators or be used to bully a child, Meadows said.


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