5/27/09

Now here's a deterent!

One of the things that first surprised me after I moved here, was the weekly publication of the County Public Records in all the local newspapers! As if it's not hard enough to keep anything secret around here, if you make it into the Public Records, then all your darkest secrets can be in print too. You see we don't do this in the UK, you can go and request to see them at the Courthouse, but they're not all published in a weekly newspaper.

For Brits reading this, let me explain what's published in the Public Records here. Marriage License applications (for which I have featured), Divorce proceedings, Small Claims under $10,000, Civil Relief over $10,000, Probate, Traffic, Criminal Misdemeanor, Criminal Felony and Oil & Gas Leases.

Some of these are no big deal but others can reveal just a little more than you might want publicly known! For instance all traffic tickets appear, whether it's for no seatbelt, speeding, or transporting an Open Container of an Intoxicating Beverage. Now that last one is a good thing I think, for some people there's nothing quite like naming and shaming, but these aren't usually the ones that are listed! But to publish every single speeding/seatbelt ticket does seem a little OTT to me.

But for real embarressment you'd better hope you don't make into the Small Claims or Civil Relief. They quickly reveal local disputes, often between family members and all the bad debtors, who are invariably not a big surprise as they may have a reputation for spending. We currently have a public official and his wife both being sued by different credit card companies. I would just be mortified if this happened to me and was published, but very few people are surprised or even care around here!

The Criminal Misdemeanor and Felony sections spare no details from the reader. I have seen everything from forgery, to drug offences and even sodomy listed in there, it can be quite eye opening let me tell you.

Finally the good news, as the Oil & Gas Leases are listed, revealing who just could be 'in the money' sometime soon. Personally unless it's for that last one, I hope to avoid such public humiliation anytime soon. But needless to say it's the first section I now read every week LOL.

But my question is, does this happen everywhere in the USA?

24 comments:

Mom in High Heels said...

I don't know that it happens everywhere (maybe it does), but it's happened everywhere we've ever lived in the US (dh is Army, so a lot of places). It always makes me laugh to read some of the crazy stuff in there.
When I was a Realtor in TN, every month (IIRC) the TREC (TN Real Estate Commission) puts out a news letter and on the last page (sometimes it takes more than 1 page) it lists any and all complaints/discretion/disputes/etc. against Realtors. I did not know one Realtor who didn't read that page first. :)

Mary said...

I grew up in a small town with a twice-weekly newspaper. Sure enough, the public record reveals private matters :) That said, I think these records are easily found for any town/city via the internet. It just doesn't pay for city newspapers to use space for these records. It's just more fun to read in a small town when you may know the people involved...

A Brit in Tennessee said...

The only public records they print in our local newspaper, are property transfers, and a samll column lately on minor arrests ( due in part to a new investigative reporter). Most everything else is word of mouth ;)

Oz Girl said...

I know we had such a section in the newspaper when I lived in Akron, Ohio. It seemed to be for mostly small burglary and drug offenses, domestic abuses, etc. I rarely read them, because, ahem, most of the abuses were in a crust of society wherein I would have never recognized any of the names anyway. Like MIHH said, some of the stuff was just absolutely crazy!!

In a small town like where I live now, ultimately the names would be more recognizable, but alas, I really don't know anyone here ... yet!

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

I've always lived in a small town with a weekly paper. The records you described have never been published in the paper here. I was surprised that some small town papers do publish such information.

Sherri said...

Sarah, publishing all that stuff doesn't happen everywhere in the U.S. When we lived in NJ they did publish Bankruptcies because legal you have to, but no marriages, small claims, etc. We now live in NC and they don't publish marriage licenses requests, but legal they do have a responsibility to publish foreclosures/bankruptcies, etc. They do publish realty transfers (in NC and NJ). When I worked in the law office in NJ we also had to have published by law legal name changes. Maybe the justic system should really think about how many trees they are destroying and think of another way to publish this information.

Expat mum said...

I think they CAN publish almost everything all over the country, but different newspapers obviously have different ideas of what sells. Our big one here (apart from crooked politicians) is property prices. They publish every transaction complete with purchase price.
What tickles me is the fact that Americans hate the idea of big government intereference in their affairs, yet everything's an open book anyway.

Comedy Goddess said...

Americans thrive on reading things like this. It's how we monitor keeping up with The Joneses, or not keeping up with some of them anyway.

Jo, a retired teacher said...

Mostly small towns with not much other kinds of news publish stuff like that--but your paper publishes more than any I've ever heard of. Our small local has a police section where you can read about the arrests, and lots of space for what's going on in all the local schools, as well as a weekly "vent" where people can anonymously gripe about whatever they choose. That's a fun read.

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Oh Jo LOL, I wish we had the 'anon vent' section, that does sound like fun!!

Daryl said...

Good question but no answer ... I do know the NY Times doesnt do that ... and its the only paper I read ...

Gaelyn said...

You and everybody else will first flip to the county or police reports.
I usually only read the newspaper when I live in small towns, and it's a weekly. Guess we all like to know what someone else in the neighborhood is doing that's usually wrong.
In one town, I'd overhear people talking about the police "blotter" like it was important world news. And instead, whose dog pissed on a tree, suspicious person walks past house, loud noise complaints.......
I just laughed. And stayed out of the reports.

Silverback said...

As you might imagine Sarah, my local "Yorkshire Post" newspaper would never lower its standards to publish such sordid details.

There would be no room for the adverts then !

Given I can access thousands of worldwide newspapers online, I'll have to look up the ones in Okie for a fun read.

Kat said...

Everywhere I have lived in the US has this. My favorite is reading the ones about the drunk and disorderly people. They are funny stuff.

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

I like the sound of the name and shame section of a newspaper. It would certainly increase circulation! Trouble is, I'd be reading about people that work with me.

Kay said...

Gosh...I haven't seen that in Hawaii. I don't exactly remember it in Chicago (except for property transfers) either but then again I'm not very observant as my husband would say. I think the concept MIGHT make people think...MIGHT... before they do something.

Lover of Life said...

Same thing in our town. When my husband and I decided to get married the local paper published the fact that we had filed for a marriage license. People at work, (we worked at the same place, and it had a nepotism policy in place that didn't allow people who worked there to date, let alone marry), knew before we told anyone else!

Sassy Britches said...

TOTALLY happens in my town too! And yep, it's the thing you always read first! Shameless gossip hounds that we are.

Diane said...

I just got finished reading our local daily paper. I get a laugh out of reading the public records section at times. Some of those with their noses in the air shouldn't act so high and mighty it seems!

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Diane, I have had that exact same thought many times LOL!

Fred said...

I'm not too sure how many people read that stuff, but the newspapers love it because they make money off of the advertising.

Jill of All Trades said...

It used to be in my small town paper but since it is not such a small town anymore they did away with it, until recently.

pamokc said...

What about John TV that was on here in OKC for a while? It featured all the men who had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute! Made for some fun viewing. It also showed the professional gals as well.

BTW, I must see if I can find a letter written to the editor of a paper in your neck of the woods some years ago. (I use the term woods loosely, considering your area).... anyway it was from a woman who evidently got so drunk and obnoxious at a party, that she wrote a letter to the editor so she could apologize to everyone all at the same time! My friend kept it on file for a long time because it was such a hoot. Definitely Jay Leno material. Must find.

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda late reading your post, but here in Indiana those things are published. I always enjoy reading the police runs for shoplifting, domestic disturbance, etc.. Sometimes I do find someone I have known. The local paper used to publish the cause of death about a month after the obit appeared, but they decided that was too intrusive. Considering all the other information you can get, cause of death seems minor. I always liked that section because I might see someone I used to know but had lost touch with in the obit and could wait a month to find out what happened. I like reading the marriage and divorce filings too. It's just a nice way to keep from being embarrassed should you ever run into them. "So, how is Jim?" Uh...we're divorced, this is my new husband Bob." lol...