ELYRIA — Lorain County Clerk of Courts Ron Nabakowski has scrubbed his website of any information on domestic violence and civil stalking protection orders to comply with federal law.
The change, which went into effect Wednesday, won’t remove the information completely from the public record, but those wishing to review protection orders will now have to go to the Lorain County Justice Center in order to do so.
Kate Lenz, Nabakowski’s staff attorney, said Lorain County isn’t unique in adapting its website to comply with the federal law that bars information about victims who have sought protection orders from being placed online. Cuyahoga County also recently made the change, she said.
She said it wasn’t possible to alter records already online to protect that information, so the best way to adhere to the law was to remove the information.
“It’s a limitation of the case management system,” Lenz said.
She said deputy clerks have been warned they may see an increase in the number of people requesting protection order information in person.
Not everyone sees the change as a good idea.
Anti-domestic violence advocate Geri Cahill-Miller said she has concerns that people will no longer be able to check online to find out if someone has a protection order against them.
“How many more acts of violence will happen to men, women, children and animals simply because information they once used to run a background check themselves has been taken away?” Cahill-Miller wrote in an emailed statement.
She also wrote that people might not have the ability to visit the Justice Center to make a public records request during regular business hours.
“This information is crucial and needs to be easily accessible to the public for public safety,” she wrote.
Virginia Beckman, executive director of the Genesis House, said she understands that concern, but likes that victims’ information will no longer be available online.
She also noted that most people who end up with either a domestic violence or civil stalking protection order either have been convicted of a crime or are facing charges.
Beckman said that information will remain available to police through law enforcement databases.
“The good news is that the people who need to know about the order to enforce it will still have access,” Beckman said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.