MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Wisconsin woman whose eviction proceeding was dismissed should be granted her request to remove her record from an online public access system, the state’s Appeals Court said Thursday.
The opinion overrules a lower court decision that denied Denice Morgan’s petition to have her record removed from the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access site. She argued that having her name online, even though the record noted her eviction case’s dismissal, could threaten her ability to find housing in the future.
The Dane County Circuit Court agreed with Morgan’s argument but said it lacked the authority to make the redaction. The Appeals Court disagreed with the lower court’s rationale and directed it to grant Morgan’s request.
Morgan’s landlord, who initiated eviction proceedings in July, did not object to redacting it from the court website. The case was dismissed Sept. 10.
Bill Lueders, who heads the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, called the decision unfortunate.
“All of this is predicated on the notion that landlords are not smart enough or decent enough to make rational decisions about the information that they see on WCCA,” he said. “The idea that an eviction that is dismissed has to be kept from public view so that a landlord can’t find out about it is troubling. What else can’t we know?”
Morgan only requested that her case not be accessible online. It would remain available physically in the circuit court’s office.
Still, Lueders said the appeals court ruling was concerning because it’s “part of a pattern,” noting that last year the director of state courts removed cases from online access if two years had passed since their dismissal.
Wisconsin lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would broaden eligibility for the expungement of records for people convicted of certain crimes, including some felonies, if the maximum prison punishment is six years or less. The bill also would expand eligibility by allowing people who were older than 25 when they committed a crime to request expungement.