WISCONSINREPORT.COM (02/15/08) - State Representative Marlin Schneider of Wisconsin Rapids has introduced legislation to open the deliberations of the State Supreme Court and to provide criminal penalties against those who use the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program otherwise known as CCAP to discriminate against employment and housing. The veteran Wisconsin Assembly Democrat is trying to do something for the numerous people who have contacted him about being victimized by the online Internet availability of court information that sometimes is misleading to users when incorrectly interpreted.
In June of 2007, Schneider introduced legislation which limits general internet access to CCAP. CCAP is an electronic record of all circuit court proceedings in Wisconsin. This legislation was designed to protect innocent people from being harmed by the inaccuracies and invasive misuse of this program.
“One woman who wrote me explained how she lost her job due to a wrongful accusation and was then forced to find new gainful employment," Schneider said. "She then struggled to find employment because even though all the charges against her had been dropped, the case still remained on CCAP."
"The woman is now working for less than half the salary she had previously been earning, prompting her to foreclose her business resulting in future financial insecurity for her family,” Schneider explained.
Schneider went on to describe another situation in which a young college student, who had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, suffered from his first manic episodes. These episodes caused erratic behavior and consequently, lead to four disorderly conduct misdemeanors and a restraining order.
Once the student was diagnosed and recovering under the care of a psychiatrist, he too could not find gainful employment due to discrimination by employers using CCAP.
Many of the constituents writing in opposition to the bill have what some would say is a self-serving interest, especially landlords. A woman from Madison wrote, “Although unfortunate (for some), these events are public record.” Two days later, Schneider received an email of support from the very same woman. She had been denied a loan because of an old and closed CCAP record.
Unfortunately for all the innocent victims in Wisconsin, opposition from the media, the courts, and data-miners has ended the progression of this bill in the legislature. For example, Judge Gary Carlson of the Taylor County Circuit Court opposed the bill because he claims it would deny “the little people”, as he called them, the ability to easily check another citizen’s court history.
In response to the opposition, Schneider has now drafted two bills to address two specific problems voiced by the opposition.
The first bill disavows the restrictions made in his previous bill but directly addresses the problem of discrimination, particularly in employment and housing. Schneider’s bill would make it a Class I felon for anyone to discriminate in employment or housing because of an arrest or conviction record on CCAP.
The second bill addresses the court’s desire for all CCAP records to be open to the public. If this is true, then Schneider believes the public should also have the right to know about the private discussions of the Supreme Court. Just as the legislature must debate bills and issues in public, Assembly Representative Marlin Schneider believes, so too should the appellate courts. The lawmaker’s second bill opens up these deliberations to the public.