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Open Courts Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 8, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, H.R. 8235, the Open Courts Act of 2020, will modernize the judicial branch and bring it sometimes kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

First, the bill will update and streamline the Federal judiciary's case management system, ushering in much-needed improvements to the technological capabilities of the system.

The bill will consolidate the judiciary's electronic court records system, establish certain data standards, and require the records system to follow those standards. These improvements to the case management system will increase the efficiency and improve the availability of court records to the American public.

Second, the Open Courts Act will require that Federal court records are free and accessible. By ensuring that public records are freely accessible, this bill will bring increased transparency to our judicial process.

The reforms contained in the Open Courts Act are not new ideas. Advocates of judicial transparency have long supported efforts to make court records free to the public. The Open Courts Act makes long overdue, commonsense reforms. This bipartisan legislation will expand the public's ability to not only find court records, but to access them as well.

However, before I conclude my statement, I do want to note one thing. While this bill is bipartisan, the text was updated late last night. The bill now contains an additional eight pages and includes various changes to the text, specifically regarding redaction language of sensitive info.

I understand why courts don't necessarily want this burden, and typically, under current process, filers are the ones who do the redactions, but now the text seems to be silent on the redaction of sensitive information altogether.

I honestly don't know where that places the current policy, and the reason I don't know is because we were made aware of these changes less than 24 hours ago. This is not how a bipartisan bill is supposed to proceed, and it is a really good way to get a broad bipartisan bill to not become law.

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Mr. ARMSTRONG. Mr. Speaker, with all of the concerns that exist, I think the goal of transparency and cost effectiveness are still worthy of this, and I urge support of the bill.

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