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General Category => Computers & Internet => Topic started by: Lisa Wolfe on April 12, 2011, 01:12:16 pm

Title: Budget could threaten access to public court records
Post by: Lisa Wolfe on April 12, 2011, 01:12:16 pm

Budget could threaten access to public court records

Budget could threaten access to public court records
JASON SMATHERS | Associated Press | (43) Comments | Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 6:00 am

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Wisconsin court officials fear the court's data management system, including a popular site that allows anyone to easily look up the criminal records of friends and neighbors, could be on shaky ground if the governor's proposed budget breaks up its funding mechanism.
Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget would end a dedicated funding stream for Consolidated Court Automation Programs, the data management system for the state courts system. State law now gives the system $6 out of every $21.50 charged as part of the Justice Information System Surcharge included in most court filing fees. Under the new proposal, all fee revenue would go to the Department of Administration, which would give the money to the system and a range of other programs. It would also cut the system's funding by 10 percent.
Jean Bousquet, CCAP spokeswoman, said the switch would allow DOA to move money to other programs in the future. If that happens, Consolidated Court Automated Programs would have to consolidate or cut back on non-essential services, and the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access database would likely be on the shortlist of cuts.
The WCCA site provides detailed and updated information on all past and pending court cases in the Wisconsin circuit courts system and is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Bousquet said while they hope cuts are not necessary, the system would likely deal with budget cuts through gradual moves.
"We do pretty much instantaneous updates of court records now," Bousquet said. "Maybe we would delay updating the database and do it nightly or daily. It's just the concern that could be there if this goes through as written."
Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson also indicated that CCAP itself could be jeopardized by the change and urged the Joint Finance Committee to keep the funding stream in place.
"CCAP's revenue sources need to remain stable and under the court's authority." said Abrahamson in testimony to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. "Without a strong, stable CCAP, the court system, indeed the entire justice system, cannot function in an effective and efficient manner."
Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Walker, said Abrahamson's claims are "simply not true" and that the change was made because the dedicated funding streams made the fee too difficult to administer. Werwie also said the 10 percent cut was in line with across the board department cuts and is needed to balance the state's $3.6 billion budget deficit.
The WCCA site averages 2 million to 3 million hits a day. However, some state legislators have criticized the site's openness, saying the information can be routinely abused. Former Democratic Rep. Marlin Schneider of Wisconsin Rapids introduced a bill in 2009 that would limit public access and remove records until a judgment has been rendered. The bill died at the end of the legislative session, but debate over the site continued in a special Legislative Council committee. That committee drafted a bill in March that would only clarify that expunged records should be removed from the site.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, has championed the site as providing citizens with essential information and said that any cutbacks to the WCCA site would have "significant consequences."
"The bottom line is that it saves the state money overall, because the availability of this information online means the individual clerks of courts in different counties aren't being constantly asked to provide it," Lueders said. "If you make it less useful in any respect, you're going to increase the burden on clerks of court."
Bousquet said that while they've not decided on whether to start making cuts to CCAP, they have put a stop to any plans for expansion.
Union supporters regroup after stunning election reversal
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Union supporters regroup after stunning election reversal
STEVEN VERBURG | | 608-252-6118 | (278) Comments | Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 8:00 am
 Demonstrators march Saturday from the Capitol to the offices of the state business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, on West Washington Avenue. "This is the first time we are bringing the protest to the WMC," said organizer Ben Manski. CRAIG SCHREINER State Journal
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Budget could threaten access to public court records
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Days after a shocking reversal in a critical Supreme Court race, liberal activists rallied Saturday at the state Capitol, pointed fingers at the state business lobby and made plans to build on the movement that generated weeks of mass demonstrations and a spate of recall campaigns.
"This is about regrouping for the long haul," said Ben Manski, a Madison lawyer who helped organize events that were to continue Sunday with workshops on political topics from direct action campaigning to building coalitions to taxing the rich.
On Saturday, protesters marched to the offices of the state business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, on West Washington Avenue.
Manski said the action was sparked in part by attention given to Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers who have sent millions to right wing causes and supported Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
"There has been a lot of publicity about the Koch brothers influencing Wisconsin politics, but the fact is that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is the lobby group that's in the Capitol day in and day out working to shift taxes from the wealthy to the rest of us," Manski said.
"What they should be doing is creating jobs, not divisions in the state of Wisconsin," said Ed Garvey, an attorney who spoke during a rally outside the Capitol.
WMC spokesman Jim Pugh said last week he didn't plan to respond to protesters.
Among the speakers at the noon rally was Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a key figure in efforts to delay a law that strips most public employees of most of their bargaining rights while erecting obstacles to dues collections and maintaining state certification.
Conservatives 'brainwashed' voters
Conservatives "have brainwashed approximately 50 percent of the voters in our state," La Follette said, referring to Republican election victories in November and the close race for Supreme Court last week.
Walker signed the collective bargaining law, which he says will allow governments to cut costs and fix the $3.6 billion state budget deficit he inherited when he took office this year. The law is currently being held up in Dane County Circuit Court over allegations the Legislature violated the open meetings law when it passed the bill.
The protest followed a roller coaster week in Wisconsin politics.
On Tuesday, state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser appeared at first to narrowly lose a re-election bid. But on Thursday, Waukesha County announced it previously failed to include thousands of votes in the total it announced after the election, and those votes gave Prosser a comfortable lead.
Union supporters are continuing efforts in the electoral arena to recall Republican legislators. Walker supporters also are working to recall Democrat state senators.
Workshops held to strengthen bonds
The weekend workshops, called the Wisconsin People's Assembly, are an effort to strengthen bonds between some of the tens of thousands of people who have protested since Walker announced his agenda.
"It's a way of recognizing that there are many organic efforts out there," Manski said. "A lot of self-started efforts, and we're working on bringing them together in a coordinated way."
More than 100 people attended Saturday night's panel discussions at O'Keeffe Middle School, where a poster asked for donations for a recount in the Supreme Court race. Speakers including a professor, teacher, nurse, student and farmer laid out how Walker's agenda supports corporations on the backs of middle class workers and the poor.
Yedda Ligoke, a high school social studies teacher from Montello, said Walker's budget is pushing rural schools to the brink of closing.
"For the first time in my life, I saw an angry kindergarten teacher," she said.
"I hope they bit off more than they can chew," Ligoke said. "They picked a pretty big fight and that's evident by the number of people here."
Susan T. Hessel, a writer from La Crosse, attended the event for the same reasons she took buses to three Madison protests on recent Saturdays her fuse was lit by what she called the "demonizing" of teachers and public sector employees.
"We have been forced into a corner the devil's bargain of cutting old people or the poor," Hessel said. "That's really not what we should be about as a country."
Sessions Sunday are scheduled to begin with 8:30 a.m. registration at MATC's Downtown campus.
State Journal reporter Matthew DeFour contributed to this report.
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