Criminal Record Researchers Experience Severe Delays by San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s New System

On March 22, 2012, NPRRA shared initial concerns regarding San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s (SLO) public criminal record search functionality. At that time, the court had removed the direct public access terminal and instituted the requirement that all searches instead be run by court personnel. For the past couple of years, criminal record researchers have completed record searches by submitting lists of subject names to the clerks and waiting 3-5 days to receive search results.

According to Karen Liebscher, the Manager of the Criminal Court Division, SLO’s new system for criminal case management went live on January 22, 2014. This system contains new and pending cases only; both new and historical case data from the old system will be accessible by the court clerks only. There are no indications of direct public access to criminal records and the printing of dockets from the old system will eventually be discontinued.

Judie Smith, (judie@jhsmithconsulting.com) human resources consultant and criminal records researcher, reports that she has lists four weeks old (as of 02/18/14) of over 1,000 names that are not being processed. At one point, a court supervisor informed her that no lists are currently being processed. Smith isn’t alone and NPRRA recognizes the need for equal and timely access to criminal records. Click here for February 10, 2014’s report by local news station KCOY.

EQUAL ACCESS?

Our initial post on this subject conveyed that the court had set up a private terminal that attorneys could access to obtain case information pertaining to their clients. As the current issues unfold it has come to light that certain members of the press have also been granted access to this terminal. The access to the court records has thus not been administered equally. Since the court has cited privacy concerns as a reason for curtailing access initially, it seems counterintuitive to grant access to the press and not to trained background screeners who operate under regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. According to Smith, the SLO Chamber of Commerce is looking into this matter and doing some fact checking. Smith is also spearheading efforts to get other local agencies and news outlets to recognize the gravity of the issue and help disseminate the matter.

The court cites severe budget cuts and under-staffing as primary reasons for the delay in processing of searches; no one appears to contest this assertion. The court, understandably, faces considerable hurdles to balance various concerns. Consider, though, that if the court is not equipped to keep up with the need for information due to staffing issues, a workable solution might involve reverting back to the allowance of direct access by the public and the background screening community.

Although the Court is working on the issues, certain parties close to the action have alleged that resolution might be expedited if affected parties contact the Court directly to advise them on how this specifically affects the public at large. Local and national employers, job hunters, screening firms who rely on court data, landlords, prospective tenants and many others are ultimately affected by such restrictions to records access.

Following is the applicable contact information.We look forward to reading your comments and experiences about this issue below. We also invite comment from the SLO court personnel.

Karen Liebscher is the Criminal Court Manager
Superior Court
1050 Monterey Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
karen.liebscher@slo.courts.ca.gov
805-781-5166

Susan Matherly is the Court’s CEO
Superior Court, County of San Luis Obispo
1035 Palm Street, Room 385
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
susan.matherly@slo.courts.ca.gov
805-781-5421

Jan Michael, Court Executive Secretary and Susan’s Asst.
Phone (805) 781-5421
Fax (805) 781-1159
jan.michael@slo.courts.ca.gov

Dodie Harman is the presiding judge and who Susan Matherly reports to.
Superior Court, County of San Luis Obispo
1035 Palm Street, Room 385
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
dodie.harman@slo.courts.ca.gov

3 thoughts on “Criminal Record Researchers Experience Severe Delays by San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s New System

  1. This has been a very difficult time for court researchers, their companies, and anyone who uses our service as a means for checking the criminal backgrounds for various applicants. It would be incredibly short sighted and completely off base for the Court to indicate that only a handful of people are affected. As a researcher dealing with this county, I feel this deficiency first hand. I, personally, have written two letters to the Court and have received no response. I met with and spoke directly with Karen Liebscher on February 19, 2014. Her only response to any of my questions was, “I don’t have an answer for you.”

    It is my sincere hope that an effective remedy can be reached quickly. I believe the first step would be communication from the Court. A little transparency now would go a long way. If the Court is suffering from the deployment of their new case management system, they should put out a notice with projected dates, policy changes and/or updates. While the slow down(or standstill) in the receipt of records has caused a tremendous problem for people all over the United States, the failure to communicate and the absolute uncertainty is causing more damage. People are being passed up for employment and other necessary life functions because we cannot, at a minimum, give a possible wait time for when these records will be available. All we have to give these people whose lives are on hold is Ms. Liebscher’s, “I don’t have any answer for you.”

  2. As of 3/14 we are hearing that the court is starting to catch up on getting results back to researchers. While there are still many concerns not addressed, such as the apparent lack of equal access to records, this is definitely a step in the right direction!

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