Arkansas Supreme Court Rules in PBSA Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit

On November 5, 2020, the Arkansas Supreme Court released its opinion on a lawsuit filed by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) in 2018 against a Clerk of the District Court in Benton County, Arkansas, that upheld a Circuit Court Judge’s decision requiring that clerk to release court records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), according to a report from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The Democrat-Gazette reported the lawsuit filed by the PBSA – a non-profit trade group representing screening firms formerly known as the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – claimed the clerk tried to “thwart the background check process” by requiring “any people seeking individual court records to pay $5,000, complete a compiled records license agreement, and obtain a compiled records license.”

The Democrat-Gazette also reported the lawsuit titled JONES v. PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND SCREENING ASSOCIATION, INC “claimed requests for court records by association members are governed by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza agreed with the association. The state Supreme Court upheld Piazza’s ruling.” The complete story about the PBSA lawsuit ruling is available here.

According to the facts alleged in the original complaint, an Arkansas PBSA member offering background screening services in the state was informed beginning in February 2018 that the Arkansas State Supreme Court Administrative Order 19 and not the FOIA governed requests for court records to be used for criminal background checks. PBSA stated that the clerk had reiterated this position as recently as July 10, 2018.

On July 23, 2018, the PBSA filed a lawsuit against a clerk in the Bentonville Division of the District Court of Benton County in Arkansas for allegedly refusing “to provide background screening firms access to records from her court” and claimed that the clerk used her official position as clerk to impede the background screening process by relying “on a gross misinterpretation” of Order 19, according to a report from Arkansas Online on July 25, 2020. FULL ARTICLE