researching public records


TVCAlert reported yesterday (Jan. 9, 2007), that “BRB Publications, the leading publisher of public record information in the U.S.,” started BRB’s Public Record Blog in December.  The weblog “provides information about new government databases, changes in law or procedures for retrieving public records, pertinent lawsuits, proposed relevant new laws, and more.” [update (Feb. 26, 2007):  PRB’s Public Records Blog offers a useful Essential Checklist When Using Public Record Retrievers.  The list will help you clarify just what you’re looking for and help make sure your expectations and those of the hired retriever are in sync before the research begins. TVCAlert points out “Of course, the one big question not on this list that you will want to ask the retriever is ‘what is the cost?’  This answer cannot be determined until the ten items are clear to both parties.”]

sleuth  If you want to learn more about doing public records searching (or virtually any kind of research online — especially legal), shlep suggests that you take advantage of the resources available at The Virtual Chase, which is sponored by Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, and under the direction of Genie Tyburski.  The Virtual Chase Introduction to Public Records Research has an important word of caution about using public records:

“[P]lease note that the online records often contain much less information than what you can find on-site in the supporting documentation. According to BRB Publications’ Public Records Online, 5th edition, only 35 percent of public records are available online, and many of these contain insufficient information for verification purposes. Moreover, data in the online records is often erroneous. To be certain you have found information about the right person, you should verify it with the source.”  

That said, you can find extensive, annotated links to Tools for Finding and Actual Sources of Public Records and Public Information at The Virtual Chase website.  Their Editor’s Choice for finding public records is the BRB Free Resource Center, which describes itself as “a comprehensive and searchable list of free public record sites along with additional tools to locate sources for civil records, criminal records, driving records, real estate records, public record vendors, record retrievers, legislation and more.”  TVC lists and describes many other public records tools and data bases, many of which charge for access to informaiton.

p.s.  Jeff Severn at Consumer Law & Policy Blog recently asked “Should Data On Complaints About Auto Safety and Defects Be Publicly Available?”  (Jan. 8, 2007)

1 Comment

  1. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » the perils of cheap background checks

    March 20, 2007 @ 9:58 am


    […] For further information see: “Pinching Pennies in a Background Check Might Cost You,” by Lynn Peterson, The Virtual Chase, 24 August 2005; also, our prior post, “researching public records.” […]

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