Lawsuit in Eastern PA Affecting Clarion County Jail Lookup Tool
On May 28, a jury ruled that Bucks County, just outside of Philadelphia, had “willfully violated” a Pennsylvania law that protects criminal history data of individuals.
The lawsuit contended that Bucks County had allowed data, including mugshots and dates of birth, of nearly 67,000 people – spanning from 1938 to 2013 – to be available online for two years including records that had been expunged. Each member of the class action lawsuit was awarded $1,000.00 with a total payout that could reach as high as $67 million.
The case was filed in 2013 after Daryoush Taha discovered his mugshot, which originated in the Bucks County Inmate Lookup Tool, on mugshots.com – over 10 years after his record was expunged.
The inmate lookup tool that was being used in Bucks County, created by Digital Solutions, Inc., is the same tool being used at the Clarion County Jail.
The information in both systems was available online to the public.
Clarion County’s inmate lookup tool went offline on May 29 – the day after the verdict came in.
In the days following the system going offline, Clarion County Jail employees, on multiple occasions, told exploreClarion.com that it was down due to a malfunction and said that jail officials would be contacting the vendor to resolve the issue.
However, Clarion County Commissioner Wayne Brosius told exploreClarion.com on June 7 that the county decided to take the inmate lookup tool offline after consulting with its solicitor.
“We are looking at the issue,” Brosius said.
“Our solicitor hasn’t given us any advice yet (in what we should do long term). We are waiting to see what we should do. We don’t want to be in the same situation as Bucks County.”
Brosius said the system, if it comes back online, won’t do so until Clarion County knows what it can legally share on it.
“We need to know what we should and shouldn’t have up on it,” Brosius explained.
Clarion County is probably wise for taking its system offline considering Jonathan Shub a shareholder with the law firm Kohn, Swift & Graft PC in Philadelphia, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Bucks County lawsuit, told exploreClarion.com the Bucks County lawsuit is probably not the only one the firm will file.
“We are presently planning on it,” Shrub said in an e-mailed response when asked if Kohn, Swift & Graft was planning any additional lawsuits similar to the one in Bucks County.
Some of the information that was available on the inmate lookup tool is also available on the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System (UJS). The UJS, however, is a record of past and current court cases and does not include inmates mugshots. The UJS is also updated to reflect the outcome of each case, including not guilty verdicts. When a case is expunged, the record is removed from the system.
Bucks County plans to appeal the May 28 verdict.
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