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To Comply With Federal Law, Restraining Order Information To Be Removed From Branch Website

Effective Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, and in accordance with federal law, information identifying a party protected by a restraining order will no longer be available through the civil/family look-up section of the Judicial Branch’s website. This federal prohibition does not extend to disclosable information in a file at a court clerk’s office. 

Under a 2006 amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005, no state, Indian tribe of territory “shall make available publicly on the Internet any information regarding the registration or filing of a protection order, restraining order, or injunction in either the issuing or enforcing State, tribal, or territorial jurisdiction, if such publication would be likely to publicly reveal the identity or location of the party protected under such order.”

Congress in August 2006 further amended the provision by substituting “the registration, filing of a petition for, or issuance of (emphasis added)” a restraining order.

“We learned that we likely were not in compliance with this amendment to the federal law,” Chief Court Administrator Barbara Quinn said. “Following a legal opinion from our Legal Services unit, we held several meetings to determine if we, in fact, needed to remove this information from the website. The consensus was that we do.  In addition, we had many discussions on how to appropriately accomplish this change.” 

“We take seriously our commitment to providing information to the public through the website,” Judge Quinn added. “However, we also must comply with federal law.”

The Judicial Branch does not post similar information regarding protective orders, which are used in criminal cases.  Restraining orders are used in non-criminal matters.

“Victims of domestic violence seek orders of protection to keep them safe,’’ said Linda Blozie, director of public affairs for the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It’s important to keep as much information about them off the Web so that they cannot be tracked and subjected to further abuse.”

Linda Cimino, director of the Judicial Branch’s Office of Victim Services, added: “The Internet is a vital tool, and often a lifeline, for crime victims. Yet, for the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, who are named protected parties in restraining orders, the Internet can become a vehicle for continued harassment, stalking and abuse.”

For more information, contact the External Affairs Division at 860-757-2270.


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