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October 22, 2013

Keep records open

NORMAN — Oklahoma judges are known to seal court records and close hearings from public view for odd reasons. Some are done to protect minors. Others are done because they just don’t think it’s in the public’s best interest. Oftentimes, it involves fellow lawyers or celebrity residents.

State Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, wants to make it tougher for judges to keep court records secret.

Rep. Stiles, a practicing attorney, wants to eliminate the “interest of justice” part of the standards that gives judges the right to seal records.

He also wants to enumerate the specific situations when records can be sealed. The House Judiciary Committee recently had a hearing on Rep. Stiles’ proposal.

Understandably, some judges won’t want to be barred from sealing some records under that standard. District and Associate judges are elected and could face a voter or campaign contributor backlash.

Rep. Stiles’ push for openness is appreciated, but he’ll face a formidable opponent in state judges. He needs to make the case that open records help the public have faith and confidence in the judiciary. A more transparent system benefits all of us.

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