Madison County Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn's order to preserve a sealed civil sexual assault case that was expunged by a circuit judge may not have been necessary.
The Circuit Clerk's office is not allowed to destroy files, even expunged ones.
On Tuesday, Mendelsohn ordered that the Madison County Circuit Clerk's office must preserve an expunged sexual assault civil case in full while the Belleville News Democrat fights a legal battle to gain access to the sealed court file.
According to the "Manual on Record Keeping," published by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC):
"If there is a court order expunging a case, the contents of the file folder and a printed copy of the record sheet and additional record sheet, if any, shall be locked in a locked envelope or the file folder shall be sealed with tape clearly identified as a court-ordered seal, which preserves documents from being viewed or removed from the file folder."
The outside of the folder or locked envelope is to be identified with the case number and the word, "expunged." It is then to be stored in a locked cabinet or locked storage area.
Any automated record of an expunged case that is maintained on an automated system is to be printed onto hard copy and included with the documents sealed in the file folder and then the record is to be deleted from the system.
Public dissemination of the party name is not allowed and if the asked about the case, Madison County Chief Deputy Circuit Clerk Judy Nelson said clerks will tell inquiring parties that the case does not exist.
Dina Burch, Madison County Circuit Clerk Civil Division supervisor, said that 06L365 is the first civil case to be expunged this year in Madison County. Figures for previous years were not available.
Traffic and Misdemeanor supervisor Crystal Hale said that there have been 29 files expunged from her department, but none of those cases were 2006 cases.
"Most cases being expunged are cases from several years ago," Hale said.
Nelson said that the only way to see a case that has been expunged is through a court order.