With severe cutbacks in the budget and loss of staff, public record services for criminal records from the San Luis Obispo Superior Court is now virtually at a standstill. Employers, schools, landlords, and the general public have been denied most all criminal record requests for nearly a month since the court implemented a new case management system.
This is a "clerk searched" court. The criminal data is not online and the docket index is not available to the general public. There are five factors involved.
1. The court has a public access terminal which displays the basic criminal record index. However several years ago, the Court Executive Officer Susan Matherly moved the terminal to a back room and she will only allow the news media and attorneys access to this "public" terminal. All others, including the biggest users of public records (employers and their representatives) are denied access to the terminal and must submit lists.
2. Although the clerks will process criminal record requests at the window if the request is limited to one or two names or cases, all requests with more than two names have been held in limbo for four weeks. According to PRRN Member Judie Smith (who has over 1,000 name requests outstanding), the manager of the Criminal Department Karen Leibscher and Ms. Matherly both refuse to speak to her, or to other representatives processing work for employers, about the back log and when the requests will be completed.
3. As mentioned, the court recently instituted new case management system. This new system contains only open or current cases. When the new system was installed, the clerks lost access to case details for historical cases on the record docket: the old system was shut down. For example, the clerks now only have access to the name and case number for closed cases. So in order to find details such as the charge, the disposition, sentencing, VOP, dates, etc., the paper case file must be pulled and viewed.
4. All closed case files are stored offsite, most files are several blocks away. Therefore per state regulations (see www.courts.ca.gov/documents/feetable09.doc), a fee of $15.00 is charged for each case file pulled since it will take more than 10 minutes to obtain. For a great many requests/instances, this procedure and fee would not be necessary if the court had kept and made available the historical docket data. Because all case files now need to be pulled, the public is faced with a rather drastic fee increase for record searching in this county.
5. In regards to record requests originating from employers and landlords for background checks, these requests made to this court are highly regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and by CA Civil Code 1786. Plus, court data is only accessed and provided because of the expressed written consent of the consumer (who wants to be hired, etc.). The reality is the vast majority of the names are "clear" - meaning the record search shows no conviction. Thus, without the use of the terminal and historical docket index (which can provide the normal same day or 1 day turnaround time), the consumer who wishes to be hired now faces at least a 30 day delay in this county.
The Court has a new Presiding Judge- Dodie Harman. The court's phone number is 805-781-5143. The court's web page is http://slocourts.net.