Judge Rules Clerk Violated Freedom of Information Act by Not Releasing Court Records for Background Check

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On August 6, 2019, a Pulaski County Circuit Judge ruled in an open-record lawsuit that a Bentonville District Clerk violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release court records of a man undergoing a background check, according to a report by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

“The truth is, the public has a right to know, and this is public information. The [Freedom of Information Act] is the heart of the issue,” Circuit Judge Chris Piazza stated in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette report, adding that the court system will only work if the public can see it operate.

Jennifer Jones – a Bentonville clerk for nine years – “claimed a provision of the state high court’s Administrative Order 19 allowed her to withhold a full accounting of the records the Bentonville court held on a man who needed a background check to be hired,” the Democrat Gazette reported.

The attorney for plaintiff National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – a not-for-profit trade association representing background check firms – said the refusal to provide court records kept applicants required to pass a background check from working, the Democrat Gazette reported.

Judge Piazza ruled against awarding legal fees to the plaintiff since Jones’ decision to withhold court records was based on “advice she received from state judicial authorities and collecting the records at issue requires a tedious 14-step computer-search process,” the Democrat Gazette reported.

Founded in 2003, the NAPBS represents the interests of more than 850 member companies around the world that offer background screening and provides training so members may maintain standards of excellence in the background screening industry. For more information, visit www.napbs.com.

A survey released by the NAPBS and Human Resources (HR) website HR.com in May of 2019 – “How Human Resources Professionals View and Use Background Screening in Employment” – revealed that 96 percent of employers conduct some type of background check on applicants.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – is accredited by the NAPBS and a “Founding Member” of the NAPBS. ESR founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Attorney Lester Rosen was Chair of the steering committee that founded the NAPBS. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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