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Los Angeles County Implements Revised Search Procedures for Criminal Court Records

On February 20, 2024, the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles published a public notice stating effective February 23, 2024, the court will no longer include partial date of birth as criteria in its criminal name search engines. The court’s procedural change is the latest response to the May 2021 California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District ruling in All of Us or None – Riverside Chapter vs. W. Samuel Hamrick, Clerk. The court decision has resulted in several courts throughout California redacting date of birth from public criminal records, leading to significant impact on criminal record background screens. 

In April 2017, All of Us or None – Riverside Chapter et al (plaintiffs), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and advancing civil and human rights of people formerly incarcerated and convicted of criminal offenses, filed suit against the Superior Court of California - County of Riverside and Court Clerk W. Samuel Hamrick (defendants) claiming several California code and court rule violations including violation of California Rule of Court 2.507(c) subsections (11) and (12).  The purpose of Rule 2.507 is to specify types of information included in and excluded from court calendars, indexes, and registers of actions subject to public access by electronic means under Rule 2.503(b). Specifically, Rule 2.507(c) (12) mandates the exclusion of date of birth from these information sources. 

Initially, a Superior Court of California - County of San Diego trial court granted the defendant’s summary motion for dismissal of the case. The plaintiff then appealed the trial court’s decision. Upon review, the appellate court overturned the trial court’s ruling in part, including its ruling on Rule 2.507 (c) (12), creating case law precedent for California county superior courts to restrict access to date of birth information in online and onsite court access terminal assisted public record searches. 

In 2022, in response to the appellate court’s ruling, California Senator Steven Bradford introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1262 to support publicly accessible electronic court indexes of criminal cases, to facilitate the search and filtering of results based upon a defendant’s date of birth and/or driver’s license number. The bill passed both the California Senate and House but was later vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. 

In 2023, in wake of the veto of SB 1262, Senator Bradford introduced SB 647 to amend California Government Code Section 69846.3 requiring the clerk of the superior court to afford access to public information identifying criminal defendants to persons certifying specific conditions as criteria for access. The bill, if passed, would afford similar access to DOB in criminal court records as Michigan state’s MCR 1.109(D)(9)(b)(v)(B) which “directs the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) to maintain a list of authorized individuals (“LAI”) who may access a party’s date of birth contained in a court record for the purposes of verifying that particular person’s identity without presenting a written consent or stipulation to the court”. SB 647 addresses security and safety concerns voiced by Governor Newson in his veto memo. The bill is currently still awaiting hearing.  

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) §607(b) requires Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) conducting background checks for employment purposes to use “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates”. Date of birth is a key identifier, used in conjunction with a consumer’s first and last name, to confirm a strong likelihood a criminal record belongs to that consumer. Confirmed record matches require a minimum of two (2) qualified identity identifiers. Records associated with consumers who have a common name must include three (3) qualified identity identifiers. Criminal records often contain limited identifiers in matching the record to the consumer. Further limiting access to key identifying information like the defendant’s date of birth and driver’s license number can lead to the inability to report records found due to lack data to support required maximum possible accuracy procedures. 

Date of birth redaction often leads to the need for extended research to confirm a potential record match. When additional case records must be ordered from a court, it can take days or weeks for the court to fulfill the records request. Courts that redact identifying information like date of birth from public record indexes often have extended processing periods for records requests due to increased CRA records confirmation demand. This often results in longer average turnaround times for completed background screening reports including a search of a court with restrictive policies. 

Ultimately, the most significant impact is the increased likelihood an employer could hire a candidate with a serious criminal conviction despite the best efforts of the CRA and hiring organization. AccuSourceHR™ Workforce Solutions actively partners with employers to support their risk mitigation goals. We also partner with the Professional Background Screeners Association (PBSA) in lobbying for state legislative action to support secure CRA access to comprehensive criminal record information. Our mission is to ensure employers have visibility to prior criminal record detail, compliant with state and federal law, to make informed decisions regarding individual job applicant and employee suitability for their intended position within the organization.