If you think that you getting all the required dopes from on-going high-profile cases in Texas, then perhaps you are mistaken. The divorce between Texas Rangers co-chairman Bob Simpson and his wife Janice Simpson is not a new story. But surprisingly, not a single record of the case is found on digital court records at the clerk’s office at the Tarrant County. Even the case of Josh Hamilton, Rangers slugger and his wife, Katie is hidden from the public eye. Perhaps so many other cases from Houston, Galveston and League City have no records for the public. You are not the only one wondering why.
An investigation into the matter
Divorce in Texas is common and most cases make certain information available to the public. An investigation by Star-Telegram found that a number of divorce cases cannot be accessed through computer systems. Half a dozen cases researched by the Star-Telegram didn’t appear on the system. This has been a concerning issue for the public who look for open records in family courts. The public, as believed by Texas Supreme Court clerk Blake Hawthorne, should have access to basic data such as litigants, their lawyers, the judge and the different types of documents being filed.
Tom Wilder, Tarrant County District Clerk and his staff have wider access to case information than what the public can access and anyone can seek help of the staff. But the public has to know what exactly they are looking for. Wilder says that attorneys can hide the identity of those involved in a lawsuit. In addition, they may label documents as “sensitive and confidential”, which complicates online search. On receiving a written request to search for case files of the high-profile divorces cases, Wilder expressed the inability of the original system to search for files.
What upgrades are expected?
Tarrant County is spending huge sums on a new case management system that would keep records of all divorce and family lawsuits in Texas. The new system is expected to have a web access and better search capabilities so that the public can access necessary data. The development of a new business continuity and disaster recovery system is also underway. The Texas Supreme Court mandated a new rule that sensitive information of litigants, such as bank account numbers and social security numbers, shouldn’t be made public.
But Hawthorne is working on an attorney-only portal that would keep such information safe. He also cautioned against drawing immediate conclusions at the moment. The Texas Supreme Court has been observing online access since the 1990s. But nothing concrete related to the type of cases to be made available online has materialized. He says that developing a new system is a complex affair. But efforts are underway to control public access to divorce cases when sensitive information and high-profile litigants are involved in it.