One of the most frustrating parts of finding minor federal/state cases are gathering the official case files. Some states have an impressive amount of court records on file for free such as Arizona, California, or Illinois. Other states like Idaho or Tennessee make it seem like their state has never heard a case in one of their courts. For example, Alabama charges $10 for each state court record that is searched. Although some believe that not having every piece of our personal lives broadcasted online is good, the lack of information is not useful for the project.
However some authors like Winn (2004), have stated that “courts are the institutions that process information and translate it into the exercise of power by rendering judgements”. The past abuse of power from the judicial power is what makes understanding the process of how this judgement is passed important. Throughout the project, I have gotten frustrated with the lack of information provided from the government.
Recently, one of the cases that I encountered trouble with was Michael Wayne Bobo. Bobo was one of the defendants in a “Sovereign Citizens” case. Although he was mentioned in several news articles, he was not one of the primary defendants. Therefore, it was extremely difficult to find his official court documents. One might wonder: “Is the case pending?” or “Maybe his case didn’t go to court!” The case happened in 2008 so the odds of the case being pending is very unlikely.
Using other databases, the name of the case was found and added so there is a record of his case going to court. After further research, the case was found in the Alabama courts website with the $10 charge for its documents. Throughout working on this project, I have been so shocked about having to pay for documents that are considered public record. As a taxpayer, shouldn’t I have access to court documents that are deemed public? The answer is that no one wants their private moments aired out in the public.