NEW YORK, April 26 (Reuters) - The New York state court
system will stop selling data with the names of individuals in
tenant-landlord disputes, a practice advocates say created
Beginning June 1, the court system will no longer provide
commercial data vendors with the names of people involved in
Housing Court matters, Gail Prudenti, the state's chief
administrative judge, wrote in a letter made public Thursday.
The change should "help better protect the personal
information of the litigants in our Housing Court," Prudenti
said in the April 10 letter to state Senator Liz Krueger, a
Democrat who represents Manhattan.
In a news release on Thursday, Krueger's office called the
change a "key step" toward ending blacklisting and a "victory
The unrestricted sale of the data to tenant screening
companies has led to the creation of databases used by landlords
and real estate management agents to discriminate against
potential tenants, Krueger's office said.
Information regarding individual cases will continue to be
available through the court website and in Housing Court clerks'
offices, according to Krueger's release.
Attorney Stephen Dobkin, who brought a case last year on
behalf of a tenant seeking to bar sale of the data, said he was
skeptical of the impact of leaving out names if the court
continues to provide computer feeds for use by tenant-screening
"If it's just a matter of retracting the names, I don't
think it will have a significant impact on the blacklist," he
Tenant screening companies already have names of tenants in
ongoing proceedings and can update their records with new names
from the clerk's office, he said.
Dobkin represented tenant James Whelan, who argued in a
suit filed in October that sale of the data effectively locked
tenants out of the residential housing market if they had
appeared in court records.
The court system countered that it is an efficient way of
meeting its constitutional obligation to make court records
The data indicates whether a tenant has appeared in court
but does not specify why, or whether the tenant is a plaintiff
or a defendant, according to the lawsuit.
Whelan, who was living in a rent-stabilized apartment on
the Upper East Side, was told his lease would be terminated
after his building was sold. The lawsuit claimed Whelan feared
being blacklisted if he challenged the landlord's decision in
The case was dropped after Whelan learned his lease was
being renewed, Dobkin said.
About 30 state court systems around the country sell access
to court records to outside companies, said Bill Raftery, an
analyst with the National Center for State Courts. He did not
know if any of them restricted individual names in
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld)
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