San Luis Obispo Superior court limits access to search warrant information

Superior Court officials are restricting access to search-warrant records in the wake of an alleged sale of court information by an insider.

Officials say such records are being locked up and only a select few employees may access them.

Court Executive Officer Susan Matherly said that about 30 court employees previously had access to the warrants, which contain key information about law enforcement investigations.

Former Superior Court Clerk Juvenal Marin, 24, of Santa Maria, was arrested on Sept. 3 after a three-month investigation into his alleged sale of court information, Sheriff’s Department officials said.

Marin is being charged with using unauthorized computer access and removing public records. He is scheduled for arraignment Thursday. An attempt to reach him Tuesday was unsuccessful.

The former clerk — who resigned after his arrest — was one of many employees who had access to warrants, which must be approved by judges and indicate the locations and the type of evidence law enforcement officials are searching for.

Court officials also are conducting an audit of Marin’s computer use when he was clerk; doing so will indicate his research of documents.

He worked for the courts for more than a year and cleared a criminal background check before his hire, Matherly said. At that time, Marin disclosed that he had been arrested for driving under the influence in December 2008 in San Luis Obispo County, Matherly said.

Sheriff’s investigators conducted a sting operation after receiving a tip from a citizen that a court clerk by the name of “Juvi” had been offering to divulge search warrant information, the department’s case report states.

Investigators said Marin allegedly took money from an undercover agent, including $300 and $250 on separate occasions, in exchange for promises to track information.

“Marin agreed to watch the files and databases associated with his job at the court for (redacted) name and addresses and any pending warrants,” the report states. “. …The meeting between (redacted) and Marin was photographed and also audio recorded.”

The Sheriff’s Department report states that Marin told investigators after his arrest that he provided information about search-and-arrest warrants “that he believed were a matter of public record.”

Assisting law enforcement officials, lawyers and the public with legal access to warrants was part of the training of the clerks, who also help people with traffic citations and various criminal court hearing matters.

“Our goal was to train our employees to be able to help people in a number of different ways so we could provide the best customer service,” Matherly said.

Matherly said that almost every item of information available to most court employees now is public record and that confidential court information is limited to fewer individuals.