Posts Tagged CCAP

New CCAP Bill Introduced

A new CCAP bill (Senate Bill 526) was introduced on January 30, 2014 by Senators Grothman, Taylor, Schultz, Harris, and Risser.  A public hearing has already been held.

Current law allows for any criminal charge to remain on CCAP even if the charge was dismissed.

This new bill, if passed, would require the Director of CCAP to remove a case involving a misdemeanor or felony from CCAP within 120 days after being notified that the case or charge has been dismissed (and not read into the record for the purposes of sentencing the defendant), the defendant was found not guilty, or the case was overturned on appeal and dismissed.

I am a fan of open records and not removing information about open records that are on CCAP.  While I personally do not have a problem with a criminal charge being removed if the defendant was found not guilty or the case was overturned on appeal and dismissed, I still believe that doing so still interferes with open records, but I can bite my tongue nonethless.

On the other hand, I have a huge problem (and concern) with a criminal case being removed from CCAP solely because it was dismissed.

Many people unfamiliar with the criminal justice system assume that if a case was dismissed that that means that it was filed in error.  While that certainly does occur, that is not the typical situation in which a case is dismissed.  The majority of criminal cases are dismissed, not becasue they were impropely filed, but rather because the victim witness did not appear at trial to testify against the defendant and therefore the State could not prove their case.  This happens quite often especially in crimes involving domestic violence.

When I was younger (and stupider) I used to do some criminal defense work.  I finally quit being a criminal defense attorney after I represented a young man that was charged for the 8th time with Domestic Violence – Battery.  It was alleged that he beat up his girlfriend.  All 8 times it was alleged that he beat up his girlfriend.  I attempted to meet with my client to prepare for trial.  He refused, just smiled, and told me that it was not necessary.  I told him that I could not represent him properly if we didnt prepare.  He told me again not to worry and that there would not be a trial.  I reminded him that there was a “no contact” order in place and that he was not allowed to contact the alleged victim so how would he know if she was or was not going to appear in court to testify against him.  He smiled and said he would never do anything against the law.

The trial date came and the victim did not show.  As a result the District Attorney was forced to dismiss the charge against my client as without the victim the DA could not meet their burden.  My client smiled at me and said “See, I told you you didnt need to worry – no trial.”  He then walked out of the court room.

Even though I was young and stupid, I was not naive.  I knew very well that this individual most likley had talked to the victim and either threatened to harm her if she came to court to testify against him or he actually did harm her to make sure she understood.  The same thing probably happened the prior 7 occassions as well.

I would not want to rent to this person.

Under this new CCAP bill, those 8 criminal charges for DV-Battery against my client would be removed from CCAP and a future landlord would not even know they had been filed or that s/he would be renting to a person that felt it was acceptable to beat up his girlfriend whenever he couldn’t control his anger management issues.

If you have similar examples from propspective rental applicants that you have screened recently, please forward the details to me directly at tpettit@petriestocking.com.  Let’s make sure the politicians are aware that this type of behavior does actually occur and how it may hurt our industry, if such a law is passed.

Thanks

T

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CCAP Might Be Affected by Governor’s Proposed Budget

Just when we thought CCAP would be left alone for awhile (after the dismantling of the CCAP Comittee) word comes of another potential attack on CCAP — this time it is financial.  The Wisconsin Law Journal recently published a post by Jason Smathers of the Associated Press indicating that court officials are concerned that CCAP may be affected if the governor’s proposed budget breaks up its funding.

The Governor’s proposed budget apparently would end a dedicated funding source for CCAP along with other state data management systems.  Currently CCAP receives $6 out of every $21.50 charged as part of the Justice Information Systems Surcharge included in most court filing fees, says the recent article.  Under the Governeor’s proposed budget, all fee revenue would go to the Department of Administration, which could decide how to allocate the money, thus ending any dedicated monies to CCAP.

The article explains that if the budget as written is passed, that CCAP may not be updated as frequently as it currently is.  Others, including the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, worry that the changes could result in CCAP being jeopardized.

The article indicates that the spokesperson for CCAP, feels that CCAP would have to consolidate or cut back on non-essential services and that CCAP would be on a short-list of cuts, if the budget goes through as written.  A spokesperson for the Governor says that a 10% cut is all that CCAP will face and that such a cut is the same type that all departments will face in order to balance the budget.  According to the article, the CCAP spokeperson indicated that no decision has been made with regard to making cuts to CCAP but that as a result of the proposed budget, there are no new plans for any expansion to CCAP.

CCAP averages 2- 3 million hits per day according to the article — with that type of popularity —  this is one user that hopes CCAP is left alone.

Make sure and read the full article here.

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CCAP Committee Disbands Without Any Major Changes Negatively Affecting Landlords

On March 9, 2011, State Rep. Ed Brooks, the newly appointed Chair of the State of Wisconsin’s, Joint Legislative Council’s Special Committee on Review of Records Access of Circuit Court Documents (CCAP Committee) sent a memo to all members of the committee indicating that he had decided not to reconvene the committee for any additional meetings.

For the most part, landlords came out unscathed by the reccomendations of the CCAP committee.  While the committee considered many issues — the most troublesome being limiting access to CCAP and removing records of evictions that resulted in a dismissal —  the only issue that the committee is pursuing has to do with the ability of person to seek expungement of certain criminal records under certain situations.

It should be noted that while the committee voted to require that all persons whose CCAP records were accessed during a rental application check or or credit check be notified of this, the chairman of the CCAP committee rejected that suggestion and chose not to include it in the draft bill that was produced as a result of the committee’s work. 

The proposed bill that was drafted as a result of the CCAP committee’s reccomendation, proposed or clarifies the following:

1.  Defines what is means for a court to expunge a court record (i.e. yes, this does include removing any reference to the crime from CCAP)

2.  Clarifies that an expunged record may not be considered for employment or housing matters.

3.  States that a person may petition the circuit court at any time to expunge the following:

-  any court record of a person who was under the age of 25 at the time the crime was committeed and who was found guilty of a forfeiture, misdemeanor, and certain (lessor) felonies, that are punishable by up to 6 years in prison.

- any court record of a person charged with an offense punishable by a forfeiture, misdemeanor, or felony in which all charges were dismissed or for which the defendant was acquitted AND the court determines that the person will benefit by the expungement and that society will not be harmed by the expungement.

So if this proposed bill is eventually passed, an individual who was convicted of a crime, and who meets the criteria for expungement, could have his/her criminal record expunged including its removal from CCAP.   What does this mean for a landlord conducting a background check on that specific rental applicant?  It means several things:

1.  It means that the landlord would find no record of the applicant having ever been charged and convicted of crime x, y or z (or charged and acquitted or charged and the later dismissal of the case).

2.   It means that even if the landlord somehow learned of the conviction (or acquitall or dismissal) and th elater expungement, the landlord could not use that information when making a decision on whether or not to rent to that individual.

3.  It means that a landlord is precluded from inquiring as to the existence of any expunged record from a rental applicant whether tht be on the rental application itself or verbally when talking to the applicant.

So while the proposed bill, if passed as written, will make screening certain rental applicants more problematic, considering all of the items/issues that were up for discussion by the CCAP committee, landlords remained relatively unscathed.  Now let’s hope that the Wisconsin Supreme Court stays out of the fray . . .

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CCAP Committee Speaks Out About Clerks Removing Dismissed Charges From CCAP

I recently posted about the fact that some counties in Wisconsin were unilaterally deciding on their own to remove certain information on CCAP.  Specifically, a few counties were opting to remove charges that were dismissed or dropped as a result of plea deals in criminal cases from CCAP.

This practice concerned the committee that was covened to discuss issues related to CCAP in Madison.  The Wisconsin Law Journal’s blog reported on this issue as did the Associated Press’ Todd Richmond. 

Essentially the CCAP comittee decided that all Wisconsin court clerks must post all dismissed charges on CCAP and keep them there regardless of whether or not the charges were amended or dismissed. 

A state court advisor, Sara Ward-Cassady, explained that the problem regarding some courts removing  dismissed or amended criminal charges and others not removing the information, resulted from the state court system’s policies on how to handle new charges in a case.  She explained that if a disctrict attorney filed amended criminal charges in writing, that in that situation a clerk would renumber the new charges on CCAP and delete old charges from public view.  However in situations in which a district attorney would amend charges against a defendant orally, the clerks would not renumber the charges and the orginal charges would be kept.

Whether or not the above is/was the sole reason for the discrepency between counties with regard to removal of certain criminal charges on CCAP is not known.  I have a difficult time believing that this would be the only reason especially since only some counties were involved in this practice —- but that’s just my initial thoughts and I do not have all of the necessary facts. 

Nonethless, the CCAP committee voted unanimously to include (and keep) all criminal charges on CCAP in the future.

This decision bodes well for landlords should the courts ever attempt to remove stipulated dismissals in eviction cases from CCAP in the future.  Following the same reasoning  as the CCAP committee did regarding dismissed criminal charges above, one would think that the committee would feel the same regarding the removal of stipulated dismissals in civil cases from CCAP if that issue ever arises..

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State Rep. Marlin Schneider Loses Re-Election – What Does This Mean for CCAP?

State. Rep. Marlin Schneider lost his bid for re-election last week to Scott Krug for the 72nd Assembly District.  As many of you know I am not a big fan of “Snarlin Marlin.”  Besides being voted one of the worst legislators in Wisconsin byMilwaukee Magazine, he also was a persistent thorn in the side of landlords due to his wishes to either restrict information that appeared on CCAP or to restrict who could access such information.  I have blogged about Schneider more times than I care to admit, but each term he kept proposing new legislation to restrict CCAP.  He was like the Energizer Bunny — he just kept on going . . .  and going.  The rabbit’s batteries have finally been drained.

With Schneider gone from Madison, what does this mean for CCAP?  Will this valuable database of information finally be left alone?  Not a chance.  While Schneider was the loudest proponent for restricting CCAP there were other politicians in Madison that seemed to always jump on Schneider’s bandwagon. 

In fact there is already a committee fromed to debate the subect.  Called the Special Committee on Review of Records Access of Circuit Court Documents, this committee has already held meetings about CCAP restriction issues.  There is not one representative from the rental industry on this committee.  When the AASEW and other rental organizations attempted to be included on the committee they were told that there was no room.  When we asked to speak at an upcoming meeting of the committee to give our two cents, we were told that all speaker slots were filled.  Thus, the rental industry was relegated to submitting a written comment to the committee.

Retired Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Nancy Ettenheim wrote a very well argued opinion piece in the Journal Sentinel against the restriction of and/or the elimination of information on CCAP.  NOTE: It takes a long time for this link to load but it is worth the wait — all jsonline pages take forever for me to download.

Opponents of CCAP often argue that landlords use the information on CCAP to discriminate against potential tenants.  Such comments upset me because  – at least in Milwaukee – individuals that have been evicted or who have been sued for eviction even if the case was later dismissed, are not members of a protected class, and thus a landlord is legally entitled to refuse to rent to that person.  One cannot be discriminated against in a legal sense if they are not members of a protected class.

Ms. Ettenheim cogently addresses this argument in her opinion piece by pointing out that ”informed decisions” do not constitute discrimination.  Making a decision to not rent to someone based on their behavioral history is legitimate information upon which to base a decision.  Ms. Ettenheim was much more artful in her wording than I was and I will most likley be reiterating her statement on this issues as long as this debate continues.

The State Supreme Court has also weighed in on the topic of CCAP recently.  Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser has indicated that he thinks CCAP should be restricted to the public.

Here is another recent article about CCAP in which the author states that some counties are unilaterally removing data regarding criminal charges if those charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal.  Milwaukee is not one of the counties doing this.

So while Marlin Schneider is no longer around to propose new laws trying to keep public records out of the hands of the public, that does not mean that CCAP will be left alone.  With Schneider’s friends on the new special committee mentioned above, the Wisconsin Supreme Court jumping into the fray, and some counties deciding to unilaterally remove information regarding some criminal charges, we will continue to hear about attempts to curtail CCAP in the future.

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The Topic of CCAP Restriction Is Back!

As the followers of my blog well know, many of my posts have centered on State. Rep. Marlin Schneider’s attempts to restrict CCAP access to the public.  Restriction of CCAP will greatly affect landlords as CCAP is one of the best avenues to conduct background checks on prospective tenants.  Here is a link to my prior posts on this topic.

Well, Rep. Schneider and his Special Commottee On Review of Records Access of Circuit Court Documents, have resurfaced.  On September 8, 2010 a notice of this special committee’s upcoming meeting was circulated.  The meeting will be held on September 15th and will address several topics, including Proposals Limiting Access to Consolidated Court Automation Programs Information Considered During 2009 Legislative Session, and several other topics intimately related to CCAP.

Here is a copy of the Notice that was circulated.

If you would like to read the actual reports and memos referenced in the above Notice click here and you will be directed to a page with all the necessary links.

Looks like we will have to prepare for another year of battling for our continued access to CCAP and the Open Records law in general.

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State Supreme Court To Jump Into The Debate Over Restricting Information on CCAP

The Journal Sentinel published an article on Saturday, March 13, 2010 entitled “Supreme Court Considers Limits To Online Court Records.”  It appears that while landlords have pretty much quashed Rep. Schneiders attempts to pass legislation on the restriction of infromation posted on CCAP, that the State Supreme Court will be reviewing the issue in the near future.

Patrick Marley’s article states that Rep. Schneider did not believe his CCAP bill would come up for a vote this spring.  However, Marley states that in an administrative meeting last month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed that they should study limiting what is posted on CCAP.  Justice Prosser was quoted as saying that “whatever problems we have has been incredibly exacerbated by CCAP and the Internet.  The case for redress is much too compelling to just let it die.”

The State Bar of Wisconsin has also asked the Supreme Court to make it easier to remove CCAP records and filed a request with the Supreme Court to make it easier to expunge records, both online and at the courthouse.

So while the legislative attempt to restrict CCAP may be over the overall fight appears to be continuing.  Be sure and read the comments to Marley’s article for a lively discussion for and against restrictions on CCAP.

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