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Bill would purge some on-line court records

MADISON, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)   Some of what you see on Wisconsin's online court records would be deleted under a bill to be voted on today by the state Senate's judiciary panel. Defendants who have civil cases dropped or dismissed would see them disappear from the popular Internet files within 90 days of those actions. Criminal convictions would be deleted within 120 days if they result in dismissals or acquittals -- or if they're overturned on appeals.

The bill's supporters say the innocent face job and housing discrimination for the rest of their lives, as employers and landlords ignore the Web site's warning that it's illegal to discriminate that way. The bill's opponents say lawmakers don't trust landlords and employers to be fair -- the deleted court files will pop up elsewhere for profit -- and the state's Internet database would mistakenly show that prosecutors win all the time.

News media have opposed this and other efforts to restrict online files. They say it interferes with coverage of local court cases, and deletions would prevent people from seeing larger trends and problems in the justice system. Charges dropped in plea bargains would stay on the Web site. Files on all cases would remain available at state and county court offices.

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