SKAGIT COUNTY DISTRICT & MUNICIPAL COURTS
DATA DESSIMINATION POLICY
- PROCEDURE FOR PROCESSING INFORMATION REQUESTS
The following policies and procedures govern the release of information to any person who is not a "party" to the case and is requesting information contained in the records and files of the Skagit County District Court and the Municipal departments of said Court. Consistent with state law and confidentiality requirements, the purpose of this policy is to assist and give guidance to the clerical staff of the court in handling such requests to facilitate the publics access to the courts information, not to frustrate or deny such access.
This policy is intended to cover information contained in both "civil" (including general civil cases, small claims, infractions, and specialized civil cases, e.g. Anti-Harassment, Vehicle Impound, and Dangerous Dog proceedings) and "criminal" files, and is based upon current statutes, case law and court rules.
Individuals considered parties to a case include the plaintiff(s), defendant(s), and any attorney for a named party who has filed a Notice of Appearance in the case, and any other Municipal, District, Superior Court and any criminal justice agency.
- Form of request & Response:
- Written Requests by Mail and Fax. Any request for information received by mail or FAX must be submitted on the court prescribed form (Attached). Such requests made by mail must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the return of copies or the courts written response to the request. Any FAX requests will have to supply a return envelope by regular mail prior to the court providing a written response, or copies of documents. The court will not respond by FAX.
- In-Person Requests at the Counter. Any request for information made to staff at the counter should proceed as follows:
- The requestor should first be directed to the public access computer located in the witness waiting room to determine if the information they desire is available there.
- If a further search by staff is necessary to obtain the desired information, the steps outline in Section 2 should be followed.
2. Searches for Information:
Whenever a search of court records by staff is necessary to obtain the requested information, the following steps must be taken:
- Prior to any search, the requestor must complete the prescribed "Request for Information" form (Attached), which should include at least one of the following "person-specific" pieces of information:
- Once the form has been completed, the request shall be referred to the courts "Data Dissemination Clerk", or his or her designee. Depending on the nature of the request, and/or the difficulty of retrieval of the information, the Data Dissemination Clerk should advise the requestor when the information would be available. The request for information should be processed as quickly as possible.
- Once the file or information has been retrieved by the Data Dissemination Clerk, and prior to being viewed by the requestor, the file or information will be screened to determine if the information requested is exempt from disclosure by specific court order, state statute or court rule, or case law of the State of Washington, as described below under Section C. Any protected information in the file shall be removed from the file prior to viewing by the requestor.
- Once screened, and a determination has been made that the requested information may be made available to the public, the Data Dissemination Clerk shall make the file available to the requestor for inspection.
1. Civil searches require name only.
2. Criminal and Infraction searches require two Identifiers name and date of birth, or name and drivers license number.
3. The case number for any case type.
- Any examination and review of the original file, records, and information shall take place in the presence of a clerk. Members of the general public will not be allowed to take original records for any purpose.
- The clerk when requested, if the appropriate fees are paid in advance may make photocopies or certified copies of information from the file. Copies of documents may be provided to other courts, government agencies, or law enforcement agencies without charge.
- If a requestor of information has been denied access to a file, or certain information within a file, the Data Dissemination Clerk shall advise the requestor, in writing, of the reasons for the denial. In addition, the requestor shall be provided written instructions on how they may seek a hearing before the judge, in open court, on the issue of release of the requested information.
- At no time shall the Data Dissemination Clerk release the records of other courts, even if the information is otherwise public information. The requestor shall be informed that a request for such information must be made directly to the court holding that information.
C. ACCESSIBILITY TO SPECIFIC RECORDS
As a general rule, most case records are open to public access, unless such records have been exempted from disclosure by specific court order, state statute or court rule, or appellate decisions of the courts of the State of Washington.
To assist staff, who may be assigned the task of Data Dissemination Clerk, the following information is exempt from disclosure, and is therefore not available for public inspection:
1. Affidavits for Search Warrants before a return of service and inventory has been filed with the court.
2. Mental health, psychiatric and medical reports.
3. Alcohol and drug evaluations and compliance reports.
4. Deferred prosecution evaluations and police reports.
If the deferred prosecution has been dismissed the
citation and order of dismissal are the only record available for inspection.
5. Certified copies of driving records, abstracts of driving records and compiled reports of arrests and convictions.
6. Judges notes and worksheets.
7. Witness statements and police reports.
- Address of Jurors.