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Gov.’s Proposal Would Charge $10 for Court Records Search

In a move that is raising concern about limiting access to public documents, California courts could charge $10 for each record search under a proposal included in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget. The governor included the search fee as one of the ways the courts can raise $30 million a year to offset budget cuts. The judicial budget has been reduced by more than $1 billion through cuts and transfers over the past five fiscal years, which has resulted in fewer courtrooms, construction delays and an array of higher fees. Media organizations and good-government advocates worry that such a fee would restrict access to files the public has a right to view. Democratic lawmakers also expressed distaste for restricting information to those who can afford it. Currently, there is no charge to search a court file, although courts charge $15 to look up cases that require a court employee to take more than 10 minutes to search. Under the governor’s proposal, a person could search for free for a case in which that person is a party but would be charged $10 for each additional search. Lawmakers are holding off on the proposal until the governor updates his budget in May.

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