PUBLIC RECORDS POLICY
It is the policy of the Butler County Ohio Clerk of Courts that openness leads to a better informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. Consistent with the premise that government at all levels exists first and foremost to serve the interests of the people, it is the mission and intent of the Butler County Clerk of Courts to, at all times, fully comply with and abide by both the spirit and the letter of the Ohio’s Public Records Act.
Section 1 Defining Public Records
A record is any document that verifies the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office. The document may be in any format, i.e., paper or electronic.
All records kept by the Butler County Clerk of Courts are public unless they are exempt from disclosure under Ohio law, the Supreme Court Rules of Superintendence, Local Rules, or other laws, rules or regulations. All public records must be organized and maintained in such a way that they can be made available for inspecting and/or copying.
Section 2 Response Timeframe of Record Requests and Handling Requests
Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours. Public records must be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time. “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of records requested, the proximity of the location where the records are stored, and the necessity for any legal review and redaction of the records requested.
It is the goal of the Butler County Clerk of Courts that all requests for public records should be satisfied within three (3) business days following the office’s receipt of the request. If processing the request will take longer, the request should be acknowledged in writing.
No specific language is required to make a request for public records. However, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the office will contact the requester for clarification, and assist the requester in revising the request by informing the requester of the manner in which the office keeps its records.
The requester does not have to put a records request in writing, does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. It is the office’s general policy that this information does not need to be provided. However, the law does permit the office to ask for a written request, the requestor’s identity, and/or the intended use of the information requested, but only:
1) If a written request or disclosure or identity or intended use would benefit the requestor by enhancing the office’s ability to identify, locate or deliver the public records that have been requested; and
2) After telling the requestor that a written request is not required and that the requester may decline to reveal the requestor’s identity or intended use.
In processing the request, the office does not have an obligation to create new records or perform new analysis of existing information. An electronic record is deemed to exist as long as a computer is already programmed to produce the record through simple sorting, filtering or querying. Although not required by law, the office may accommodate the requestor by generating new records when it makes sense and is practical under the circumstances.
The public may request that personal identifiers (i.e. social security numbers, financial account numbers), which they have found in the Internet content of the court record, be redacted from the on-line record. Requests will be reviewed to determine if appropriate. Redactions or response will be effected within five (5) business days. Record of the request will be tracked as an administrative non-public record. The official record will not be affected by such requests. Motions to seal or expunge a record require a court order.
Section 3 Electronic Records
Records in the form of e-mail, text messaging, and instant messaging, including those sent and received via a hand-held communications device (such as a smartphone) are to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats, such as paper or audiotape.
Public record content transmitted to or from private accounts or personal devices is subject to disclosure. All employees or representatives of this office are required to retain such e-mail records and other electronic records in accordance with applicable records retention schedules.
Section 4 Denial or Redaction of Records
If the requester makes an ambiguous or overly broad request or has difficulty in making a request for public records, the request may be denied, but the denial must provide the requester an opportunity to revise the request by informing the requester of the manner in which records are maintained and accessed by the office.
Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If the initial request was made in writing, the explanation must also be in writing. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions may be redacted and the rest released. When making public records available for public inspection or copying, the office shall notify the requestor of any redaction or make the redaction plainly visible.*
Section 5 Costs for Public Records
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies, not labor. The charge for paper copies is .10 cents per page for regular copies and $2.00 per page for certified copies. The minimum charge for an ad hoc report is $2.00. Authenticated copies are $6.00, $2.00 per certified page.
A requester may be required to pay in advance for costs involved in providing the copy. The requester may choose whether to have the record duplicated on paper, on the same medium in which the public record is kept, or on any other medium on which the office determines that the record can reasonably be duplicated as an integral part of the office’s normal operations.
Section 6 Management of Records
The Butler County Clerk of Courts records are subject to records retention schedules. The office’s current schedules are available at the Butler County Records Center, 123 North Third St. Hamilton, Ohio 45011.
*Redacted copies cannot be certified or authenticated.
Copy Requests or questions may be directed to (513) 887-3282 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.