JEFFERSON CITY — People searching Missouri's online court records system no longer can view requests for orders of protection until a judge has granted a full order.
Until the new year began, all applications for protection orders had been posted on the Missouri's Case.net Internet site, along with court-issued ex-parte, or temporary, orders that are in effect only until a hearing is held to determine if a full order should be granted.
The Jefferson City News Tribune reported that the Missouri Supreme Court ordered the change late in 2009 after a recommendation from the state's Judicial Records Committee.
"I think it's an excellent change," Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan said. "Anybody can ask for one.
"(But) the percentage of orders of protection that actually are issued, versus those that are requested, is pretty low … which means that a lot of requests are either dropped or are groundless," Callahan said.
State law says an order can be issued to "any adult who has been subject to abuse by a present or former adult family or household member, or who has been the victim of stalking," and a judge is required to hold a hearing on those allegations before a full order can be issued.
Catherine Zacharias, the state courts administrator's legal counsel, said the change was not triggered by any specific case. But she said the state had received complaints from some people named as respondents in cases in which no full order of protection ever was issued.
"They say their employers looked it up and other things," Zacharias said. "Case.net's not the official case record, but people treat it as one anyway.
"And, as we know, there are valid orders of protection and there are ones that people may file without a valid reason," she said.
Lawyers have noted that protection orders sometimes are sought in divorce cases by one party or the other to keep the divorcing parties from clashing, even though that reason isn't covered by the state law that allows the orders.
Another issue with the Case.net listing is that a respondent's names was listed, but the person requesting the order was not named on the Internet, although both names still were shown on the original documents filed with the court.