Oklahoma: all court records presumptively public records, Supreme Court to issue uniform rules for online records and local clerks must obey them

Amid the debate over what court records information should be available online, Oklahoma’s legislature passed and its governor has now signed a law that addresses both paper documents and the future of online records.

HB 2998 of 2014 as enacted specifically provides all court records are public records

All court records, as defined by Section 32.1 of Title 12 of the Oklahoma Statutes, shall be considered public records and shall be subject to the provisions of the Oklahoma Open Records Act, unless otherwise identified by statute to be confidential. If confidentiality is not required by statute, the court may seal a record or portion of a record only if a compelling privacy interest exists which outweighs the public’s interest in the record.

The law then goes on to specify that a judge must make written findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to the compelling privacy interest and that the sealing of the records must be narrowly tailored.

The law further requires the state’s Supreme Court create rules regarding the display of court records online to ensure that all online data is displayed uniformly in all counties. “Court clerks shall obey and follow the rules.”

HB 2998 has an effective date of November 1, 2014.