The digitization of public records and the online availability of primary legal materials are very useful for the online community. They are easy to access, free, and a valuable public resource. Justia.com is one of the most popular online legal resources in the world and is a great place for finding case law, codes, regulations, and legal information of interest to lawyers, businesses, students, and consumers.
However, court records can be easily misinterpreted and misleading — suggesting wrongdoing or unlawful conduct. The records available on websites like Justia.com is often incomplete, and fail to adequately convey the complexity of a legal proceeding by sharing all of the pleadings and filings that may be available. Even when the public records are complete, if you are not a skilled legal professional, you may reach incorrect conclusions of facts and law that can be damaging to the reputation of an individual or a business.
Reputation Rhino has helped hundreds of clients remove or suppress negative content online. We can advise you on how best to remove court records, case law, and other personal information from Justia.com.
What is Justia.com?
Justia.com is a valuable resource for court dockets, filings, and legal opinions from federal and state courts. Justia.com obtains their information from official records, but they acknowledge that it is not in the entirety of what is available in public records. Justia is an excellent resource for finding public records online, and it can save a lot of time you would normally spend searching for court information.
What is Online Defamation / Cyber Libel?
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, online defamation is the creation of false statements to ruin someone’s reputation. Online defamation, also called cyber libel, is a malicious act that can lead to a court order for the removal of web content. Online defamation and cyber libel claims are more complex when dealing with a public records site like Justia.com. The information published on Justia.com are public records and Justia.com is acting more like a distributor of online content than a publisher of such content.
Why is it Difficult to Remove Content from Justia.com?
You may wish to request your public records to be filed under seal. Filing under seal is a procedure allowing sensitive or confidential information, commonly found in legal proceedings, to be filed with a court without becoming a matter of public record. If the filings are under seal, the records will not appear on Justia.com or any other public records Website.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act protects websites like Justia.com from liability for publishing or republishing information provided by third parties. It protects the owner, host, and internet provider for liability for the content published on a website, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”Section 230 further provides that “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.”
Websites that host third-party content — such as blogs, bulletin boards, social media sites, and even legal resources sites, like Justia.com, are treated differently than newspapers, television and radio broadcasters. If a website host did not have some type of legal immunity, there would be countless lawsuits relating to online content, and the courts would be forced to investigate the truth or falsehood of potentially every statement of fact or opinion. Few websites would take the risk of publishing third party content, for fear of a lawsuit, and this would chill freedom of speech. In section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the host is not liable for what people submit or post on the site.
Fair Use allows for the reuse of already copyrighted content, under certain circumstances. When most people think about Fair Use, they think about copyright-free images that are free to use, such as sharing content on Facebook or Instagram, but Fair Use applies to all types of content, including written content.
Unfortunately, the Internet has made it very easy for others to steal content and repost it as their own. That would not count as Fair Use because they discredit the real owner of the copyright. Fair Use only applies in certain situations and has been the subject of frequent litigation. When in doubt over whether the content is fair use, ask for permission or consult an attorney.
How to Remove a Post on Justia.com
There are several ways to remove public court records and other personal information from Justia.com.
To fully remove public records from Justia.com, including real estate records, court records (filings), birth, marriage, and divorce records, and motor vehicle data you may need a court order. Requests to remove publicly available information from websites like Justia.com, including private information revealed in evidence, pleadings, or other documents (such as exhibits, affidavits, and transcripts) that are part of the public court record, must be made in writing and be accompanied by an order from a court sealing or redacting the records — essentially making the information subject to the court order non-public information.
Removal of information on Justia.com will typically be limited only to the records identified by the court order, so it is important to contact an online reputation management company or an experienced attorney who can advise you.
Reputation Rhino can help clients remove or suppress records on Justia.com that damage your personal or business reputation. Contact us today!