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Editor's notebook: Court record changes

From time to time, The News-Enterprise staff examines and challenges policies and practices. Faithful readers may notice a few alterations in our publication of public records.

The newspaper staff decided that with the close of 2011, it would cease publication of the collection of brief narratives regarding civil suits filed in Hardin County.

A disclaimer published with civil suit records identified the material as allegations providing only one side of a dispute. The newspaper had long considered their publication a matter of public interest and as court proceedings the information is open for inspection.

Unlike all other court records processed for publication, this material is the opening salvo in the process rather than the conclusive action. No determinations of fact have been made. No verdicts have been rendered.

In addition, most cases reported are matters regarding collection of bad debt and not a general subject of community discussion.

After some vigorous debate and examination of other options, it has been decided to discontinue publication of civil suits. The newspaper staff will continue to monitor the files for matters of significant concern involving governmental institutions, community leaders and business interests. But the overall list concluded in Friday’s edition with the last filings of 2011.

A similar examination into the publication of traffic offenses led to another policy revision.

The information is derived from the court docket. Without knowing the name of every person accused, that’s the only way to find recent offenses and record the results.

The docket lists people appearing in court. Anyone who has received a traffic citation knows that in the majority of instances the motorist is offered the opportunity to pay the fine by mail and forego the court appearance.

In effect, our list was not comprehensive. It only contained people who did not have the money, the time or opportunity to avoid a trip to the Justice Center.

That didn’t seem fair.

After considering various options, general traffic offenses were dropped from public records data contained in The News-Enterprise.

Because of heightened interest and significant potential danger, driving under the influence charges remain.