Features – Super Searchers Go To the Source – Lynn Peterson: Public Records "To the Ends of the Earth", Part 1

Risa Sacks is president of Risa Sacks Information Services, a research firm located in Worcester, Massachusetts, specializing in custom tailored phone interviews that provide clients with hard-to-get details, often unavailable by online research. She has extensive experience in locating information in areas such as expert witnesses, due diligence and prior art for law firms with unusual demands. Ms. Sacks has provided research and writing services to businesses, government agencies and individuals for over 20 years. She is the author of Super Searchers Go To The Source, a collection of interviews with the country’s top primary researchers in diverse fields, which has been nominated by Competia as Most Insightful Book of 2002 in the competitive intelligence and strategic planning fields. She can be reached at 508 799-8810 or [email protected].

Lynn Peterson is president of PFC Information Services, Inc. , a public records research firm located in Oakland, California. Lynn has been quoted on public records research in a variety of sources including The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, and The Information Broker’s Handbook. PFC Information Services provides public records research for law firms, corporations, lenders, venture capitalists, employers, the media, and other information research firms.

Editor’s Note: Part II of this article will appear in the May 15 issue of LLRX.com

Excerpted from the book, Super Searchers Go To the Source: the Interviewing and Hands-On Information Strategies of Top Primary Researchers-Online, on the Phone, and in Person, by Risa Sacks; edited by Reva Basch (2001. Information Today, Inc., Medford, New Jersey USA. ISBN: 0-910965-53-6). Copyright © 2001 by Risa Sacks. Used by permission.

Tell me something about your background, and how you ended up where you are today

It’s been basically a series of accidents. My background for the first ten years following college was as an industrial engineer, doing time-and-motion studies, boring stopwatch work. I was in charge of the development of procedure manuals. Then my job went to southern California, and I decided, “No way.” So I started thinking about what I could do. I had three little kids, twins and a three-year-old, and I didn’t want to commute. I started an employment agency called Prairie Home Companions, bringing caregivers from the Midwest out to families in California. I did that for five years. It was a very good business, and a very difficult business dealing so intensively with people.

Part of that process involved doing background checks on the applicants that we were placing. Families were taking a leap of faith in bringing someone out from a different state, and we had to turn these people inside out. I was paying a private investigator to do those background checks. My husband happened to have a conversation with a friend who was a retired investigator from the District Attorney’s office and a private investigator. He said, “Oh, Lynn could do this herself, she doesn’t have to pay somebody else. She’s good with computers.” He took me under his wing. Under his tutelage I became aware of not only what we could do in terms of background checks on individuals, but the enormity of the amount of data available online and elsewhere.

I got an offer I couldn’t refuse, sold the caregiver business, retained the information business, and decided that I would try to learn all I could about information. I had two mentors, Sue Rugge1 and Jack Fink, who was a wonderful private investigator. They’re both deceased now.

Public records research is not a profession. It’s really a craft that you can only learn through experience. Jack marched me down to the courthouse and said, “This is how you do this, this is how you do that.” I’ve been doing public records searching since 1989. By a series of accidents, I found something that I really enjoy and that’s challenging, because it’s always different due to legislative and technological changes.

What kind of clients do you have?

I’ve got a variety of clients. My bread and butter is law firms. Large law firms, particularly, do a lot of outsourcing. While law librarians do know something about public records, they tend not to be specialists. So, frequently, if it’s a really nasty one they give it to me.

What would be a really nasty assignment that a law firm would give you?

I had one yesterday where the name was equivalent to John Smith, and all they knew was that he was old and he once lived in Brooklyn. I’m supposed to find out all I can. Often they don’t want to mess with obtaining hard-to-get documents, so they outsource a lot of that kind of research. I’m involved in high-profile cases. I worked on the O.J. Simpson case for months and months obtaining hard-to-get documents, and it was ridiculous, just living hell. I also work for venture capital companies, for lenders, corporations, large accounting firms.

What would you do for venture capitalists?

If they’re considering making an investment, they would want me to check out the company and perhaps the board of directors as well. It depends on the nature of the company. If a company is involved with hazardous substances, they may want me to check the environmental records and make sure there are no problems there.

On occasion, I used to do work for the entertainment industry, writers and the media and so on. I don’t do much of that anymore because I feel a little uncomfortable with that kind of research. I think celebrities also have privacy rights and, even if it’s legal, it isn’t within my comfort level. I’ve got more work than I can handle anyway, and I just don’t want to do that.

Each of us has activities that we’re really comfortable with, and others where we think, well, this may be okay, but it’s not okay for me. What kinds of projects do you do?

The most frequent is due diligence research, usually within the context of a pending merger-and-acquisitions situation. In those scenarios, they want me to go to the ends of the earth to find out anything in the public record pertaining to the company and, usually, to the members of its board. We’re looking for things like litigation, tax liens, assets, and, if it’s a manufacturing company, maybe environmental issues. With board members we look for the same kinds of records, including criminal records—everything imaginable.

When I say due diligence, it’s really a matter of how much budget the client has. If they have a small budget, we’re usually very limited in terms of what we’re able to accomplish. If they have a larger budget, we can go on endlessly looking at the records.

I’ve got one client with a venture capital firm who calls me up and says, “I’d like the five-hundred-dollar ‘peek in the shorts’ on this company.” I know exactly what that means, and I do as much as I can within that five hundred dollar limit. Then he might call me and say, “This one’s really important. I’d like a thousand-dollar peek in the shorts.”

How do your requests come in? Do people phone or do they email you? Are most of them repeat clients?

Usually they’re established clients, and often it’s a phone call. Sometimes they email their requests. With any kind of research project, the first step is helping the client determine what it is that they really want to know. The reference interview is the beginning. They know they want information. There’s always a problem that needs to be solved. They don’t know exactly what’s out there or what might answer the question. Sometimes the client will call and say, “I want a real property search, I want this search, I want that search,” and it may not get at what they really want to know. That may be something else entirely. We discuss what their needs are, what the case involves, and then we mutually decide upon the approach and the budget. My job is to use my expertise to determine what we can accomplish within that budget. What would make the most sense? Given the budget, what kinds of research would yield the answer to the question?

When you’re asked to estimate budget, how do you do that?

I have a Ouija board. Seriously, it’s often really difficult to estimate. These are not flat-rate searches. It’s not like “$29.95 for this and you get what you get.” It’s a function of how far we’re going to go, how much we find, how much time is involved, and then how many records we may go out and retrieve manually. It’s often a multi-step process where maybe the client gives me an $800 budget to begin with, and I do all I can within that budget. Then we see that there are additional issues that perhaps should be examined, that we were not able to take care of within that budget. They may authorize more budget. Sometimes it’s many steps.

What kind of deadlines do you generally have? And how long do your projects tend to take?

Just about every project is urgent, rush, do-or-die. Rarely do they say, “Take your time, a couple weeks will be fine.” Online searching you can bang out very quickly, but when you are talking about retrieving information manually, human beings are injected into the process. Depending upon how old the records are, and whether or not they’re available without going through some horrendous process to get them out of storage, the timing can be all over the map.

A project can take months, it can take an hour. It’s highly variable.

How do you present your results?

I present a report defining what we’ve searched. If it’s online searching, I paste in the information under each type of search that was conducted. If there are manually retrieved records, they accompany the report, or they might be sent later, when they’re available. Depending upon the client, there is often an executive summary. You tell them what you searched, over what period of time, what the findings are, what was included in the search, what wasn’t included, here’s your data, and then what it all means.

It sounds like you actually do quite a lot of value-added work in terms of interpreting the data for the clients.

Absolutely. It depends on the client. If it’s a law firm, they might want to do their own interpretation, which is just fine, but certainly we’d include some kind of summary pointing out those things that I think are most interesting and probably most revealing.

While we’re talking about clients, are there any major client misconceptions about public records searching?

“Just go to the Internet.” I could scream when people say that. There’s a lot of information on the Internet, but it’s a situation where you get what you pay for, too. There are numerous public record sites available. The BRB Publications site lists all the free public record sites out there, and it’s great.

But frequently I save my clients money by using a commercial vendor instead of a bunch of Web sites. Instead of going piecemeal and taking much longer, I can get it all. I can swoop through the database and harvest the data instead of picking little pieces here and there. Also, I have found that there’s very little historical information available in free public records sites on the Web.

How far back do the online records tend to go?

It’s variable. For example, for corporate records, I’m always retrieving Secretary of State records on the Web, and it’s usually current information. If you want to obtain historical records, you’ve got to go to a commercial vendor or search manually.

Can you give me a sense of how you approach a project? How you integrate your online and offline searching?

Usually I start with online searching. Even though only twenty percent of public records are available online, it’s useful to rule out certain kinds of records, and find out where we need to search manually. Maybe we want to know if somebody in New York City has any lawsuits filed against them, so we start there. But if we do find stuff, then we send someone out to do manual research and retrieve records. Sometimes, too, I do newspaper searching or some other Web searching preliminary to the actual public records research, because it might point me in the direction of records that I might have overlooked otherwise.

If we find a situation where there are lawsuits, for example, then it’s up to the client as to whether or not we want to get copies from the case files. That’s really my bread-and-butter work.

The information that you can get online, with court records for example, is very cursory if available at all. In most jurisdictions, when you find a lawsuit, what you’re going to get with the online search is the date it was filed, the case number, the plaintiff, the defendant, maybe the attorneys of record, and maybe some notation like “contracts” so you know what kind of case it is, versus, say, “divorce.” And that’s it. It doesn’t tell you what the case is about. So then we have to send someone out to get copies of documents from the case file. That’s where the real information is. It’s not always easy. Case files are often in storage, and it can be a lengthy and involved process, because you’ve got to go and make an appointment to have them brought out from storage, and then come back to review the records.

Sometimes, even when you go to the primary documents, there are additional steps to take. For example, with civil litigation pertaining to an individual with a relatively common name, it’s often very, very difficult, even when you have the primary documents, to know if it’s your person. This happens all the time, because often civil court documents don’t contain any identifiers at all, just the name of the plaintiff or the defendant, as the case may be.

If I can find notarized documents in the case file itself, I call the notary who notarized the documents and ask for a copy of the notary log. Most notaries that I’ve spoken to are absolutely appalled. They have no idea that they have to provide that, although they’re informed of it when they get their notary commission. Sometimes they have to go dig things out of storage, and they act like you shot them in the groin when you ask them for that information.

The notary log contains information like date of birth, driver’s license number, and address. So that’s a way to discern whether or not the plaintiff or defendant is the person on whom you’re conducting your research. Just calling the notary is sometimes a whole project in itself because, particularly if it’s an older document, the notary may be difficult to locate. In California, at least, notaries are commissioned by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State would have information about where they are. That information is also recorded at the county level. If a notary dies, their records have to be turned over and they’re stored at the county, so that’s another example of where primary research can come in.

Sometimes nothing at all is available online and manual research is your only option.

Can you give me an example where that was the case?

I had a top-secret investigation involving an educational nonprofit organization. The clients were considering making a large donation, but first they wanted to know all they could about this nonprofit.

A 990 is the form that nonprofit organizations have to submit to the IRS, like a nonprofit tax return. There are places on the Internet where you can get 990 information. If you go to the Guidestar site, you’ll find a lot of 990s there. However, if you want to go back to previous years, or you want to get their form 1023, which is essentially the form that provides them with nonprofit status with the IRS, that information is not online at all.

So I hired a college student with a clipboard and a business card. I didn’t even want her to know what was going on, because this was so sensitive. I sent her out to five different nonprofit organizations, and I told her we were conducting a survey of compliance by nonprofit organizations with the IRS regulations pertaining to public inspection of documents. They’re supposed to have this stuff available to the public for anybody to walk in off the street to look at. Most of these places had never had anybody ask, and they were very, very shocked when someone actually came in and wanted to see it. But she got the information. She was able to get not only their 990s going back several years, but also exhibits and attachments to the documents. She was also able to get their 1023s. It was beautiful. That’s something you could not get online at all.

So manual research helps when you’re going for completeness, and when you need historical records.

Right. There’s another good example that comes up frequently. In environmental cases, they’re always looking for what they call PRPs, potentially responsible parties. If there’s a toxic site, they want to find out who was there before, where the deep pockets are, who’s going to have to pay for remediation of the site. We may have to go way back in time. I had one case that was a horrible toxic nightmare in New Jersey. Why are they always in New Jersey? This site had been heavy industrial since the industrial revolution—it had originally been a woolen mill with huge vats of dye and, at one point, they manufactured fluorescent lights there. Obviously there was nothing much to be found in terms of historical information online. This was an obscure little borough, and I ended up sending somebody out to the borough hall. They spent a month down in the basement, where nobody had ever been before, digging through old records to find out what companies had occupied that site.

How do you ensure and evaluate the credibility of information?

If it’s truly due diligence research, where they want every possible base covered, I would tend to use multiple online vendors because there are data holes; it’s amazing what you might miss on one database versus another. The producers may tell you that this database includes all liens and judgments, but then you find out that the judgments included are only those from municipal courts under $25,000. Another source might give you everything. You have to really be aware of what’s included in any particular database. For extra security, I often reiterate the same search using multiple vendors.

In terms of sending retrievers out to obtain documents, I have my own network of people that I rely upon on a regular basis. I’ve used these providers for years and have good rapport with and trust in them. But sometimes we need something from some podunk place in North Carolina where I may not have my own retriever. When that happens, you’ve got to find somebody with whom you can have some reasonable expectation, one, that they’re going to know what to do once they get to the courthouse or wherever you’re sending them, and two, that you’re going to get the information in a time frame that you can live with.

The BRB publications site has something called PRRN, Public Records Retrievers Network. I would go to that site and find someone who covers that specific geographic location. Then I’d go to one of the BRB’s source books of public records like The Sourcebook to Public Record Information and do a little prep work to find out about, say, court records.

When I call the retrievers, I ask some questions to see if they know their stuff: “If it’s civil litigation and I expect the amount to be over $100,000, where would that case be?” I pre-screen them. I think that’s very important, because there are a lot of Tom, Dick, and Harrys out there who really don’t know what they’re doing, and how would you know? They might come back and say, “I didn’t find anything,” and how do you know they even went?

I had a case where I was digging through EPA records for some obscure mining corporations. Every set of records that I pulled out, I noticed the same name above mine on the sign-in sheet, and realized that this person was pulling these exact same records. When I gave the client the information he wanted, I mentioned that this other person had been looking, too. It turns out that this was someone that they had sent to get those records, who’d come back with nothing. He’d looked at the same records but not with the right kind of eyes.

That happens a lot. You make an interesting point, too—that, particularly under FOIA, requestor information becomes part of the public record. That could be very, very important to a client. Do you want to talk for a minute about FOIA?

Sure, tell me about FOIA

FOIA is the Freedom of Information Act, which was enacted in 1966 under Title 5 of the U.S. Code. FOIA applies only to federal records. States have their own versions of FOIA, and it’s essentially the same process. For example, in California, we have the California Public Records Act. Under FOIA you can request documents and you can also request information about who else has previously requested the documents you are asking for. It’s often very interesting to find out who else has been looking at the records.

I had an extremely involved case dealing with bidding for a water district contract. One party alleged that the other party had a less competitive bid, yet they won the contract because there was undue outside influence by a high-level governmental official. There were allegations about this, but no concrete proof. I sent the director of this water district a request under the California Public Records Act asking for copies of everything pertaining to the bidding on that project, including the bids and all correspondence. I was flatly turned down.

Some of these places that I’m obtaining records from are pretty darn obscure and they don’t exactly have an FOIA officer. They may have Betty, and a couple of other staff, if that. When my request was turned down I asked, “Who is your district’s counsel?” I sent him my Public Records Act request, and voila! Suddenly the records were available. It was not like Erin Brockovich—I did not have to flash my boobs, all I had to do was flash my FOIA before their counsel.

They had no staff, so I got my own person in with a portable photocopier and copied literally hundreds of pounds of paper. I told her to get everything, and when I got this whole mess of paper back, my job was to sort and catalogue it. They were in no order whatsoever. In the midst of all these hundreds of pounds of paper I found the smoking gun: I found a memo from this governmental official endorsing this particular company. And on top of that, the only other party who had ever requested anything from these files was the person who had sent the memo—because they wanted to know whether or not it was really in the file.

And they also had wanted to know if anybody else had wanted to know!

So that was very cool. I want to stress that FOIA requests require a great deal of persistence. In that particular case, I was told flatly at the outset, “No, you’re out of your mind. We’re not going to give you that.”

Here’s another example: I’ve had to obtain a lot of information from the SEC. We know how to search Edgar and find a lot online, but there are little things like staff comment letters that you’re not going to find on Edgar.

When a company submits a filing to the SEC and the SEC wants further clarification on something, they send a staff comment letter. Those are regarded as nonpublic information but available under FOIA. If the filer of that information has requested confidential treatment, then you have to fight and appeal when they say, “No, this is subject to confidential treatment.” They have to justify that it indeed does contain trade secrets or whatever FOIA exemptions would preclude them from providing that information. There have been scenarios where I have said, “You can’t tell me that all twenty-three pages of this document are trade secrets,” because maybe they will redact sections, so you then get part of it and may be able to find something that might be relevant.

Sometimes FOIA is incredibly easy. They copy it, they send it to you, they don’t even charge you. You just never know.

Are there certain approaches that you’ve found tend to work when you’re dealing with these keepers of the information?

It depends on who I’m talking to. I try to use persuasion. I try to be sympathetic. Sometimes I’ll say, “My boss is going to kill me if I don’t get this information.” Other times I may take a more officious attitude, like “What do you mean? This is available under the Public Records Act. You have to provide it to me. Who is your corporate counsel, or your county counsel?” It’s just like phone research; you have to somehow assess the nuances and decide what approach to take—coaxing, cajoling, whatever will work—to get some bureaucrat to give you what you want.

When you go there in person, how you dress matters, too. I don’t usually do courthouse running myself. I send people out, unless it’s something really special or in-depth, in which case I don’t go down there in jeans; I go in there looking like an attorney because I tend to get better cooperation that way.

Let’s go to the major resources you use. What are your favorite print resources?

I’ve alluded to the BRB source books. I could not begin to do what I do without those wonderful books. It’s the most up-to-date information, and they’re priced right. In California there’s a really great book that I use on a daily basis, called Paper Trails by Stephen Levine and Barbara Newcombe2, published by the Center for Investigative Reporting. It is like the bible in terms of California public records. It’s absolutely the best of the best, and I only wish that there were similar books available for every state.

That’s about it, in terms of the actual nuts and bolts of the work that I do. I have a lot of other books on my shelf—You, Too, Can Find Anybody3, and Don’t Hire A Crook4, and Checking Out Lawyers5, but as far as the day-to-day nitty-gritty is concerned, Paper Trails and the BRB books are really the best.

How about CD-ROMs? Do you use those anymore?

The only CD-ROM that I use is another BRB publication, Public Record Research System CD-ROM Annual Disk. It’s a compilation of everything in their books, pretty much. It has an “Add Page Notes” capability right on the screen that lets you add your own notes to the material, like if a phone number has changed or if you have a specific contact person at a courthouse. The notes show up on the screen for the entry where you added them. It’s very convenient; I just never use it. I still like books; I can just write in them.

I keep track of who I know at what agency, and that makes a huge difference. If I have found contacts in a particular governmental agency or court or whatever who have been particularly helpful, I always write down their names. I often send a letter. Sometimes, if they really go above and beyond, I may send them a box of chocolates to thank them, and that goes a long way toward building rapport.

Merlin has some excellent CD-ROMs that everybody raves about. That sort of thing, like a CD-ROM of real property, tends to be more useful for companies that do a lot of the same kind of repeat work. It’s not as useful to me because my work is totally different every day.

How about favorite online vendors?

I have a whole host of online vendors that I use. I don’t often use LexisNexis for public records, because it’s expensive, and there are other, more competitive online vendors available. They all seem to be pretty much consolidated now under ChoicePoint who’s buying out the industry. They very recently bought CDB Infotek, they bought DBT, they bought IRSC. They own all these companies now. Information America was owned by West until recently when ChoicePoint bought them, and now Information America is going away and all the information that was in IA is supposed to be integrated into DBT’s AutoTrackXP database.

In the past would you have used DBT for one type of thing and CDB for another?

Sure, and I might still do that, because it’s not one single database. It’s still information from different providers. I get billed separately for them, but they’re all owned by ChoicePoint. Another vendor that I use that is very, very good is Superior Online. They cover the mid-Atlantic states, and they offer a whole gamut of information. I might search CDB and Superior on the same subject to see if I get the same data, which I sometimes don’t. It’s odd, because they buy it from the same places. Another primary source that I use all the time is PACER, Public Access to Court Electronic Records. The federal courts online—that’s the best public records value in the universe. There’s a charge for PACER, but it’s really, really low, and it’s great. So those are the big boys.

Do all the major public records database vendors cover the same types of records? Do some of them, like DBT, specialize?

They may cover some of the same types of records, but they may cover different things as well. DBT has many different kinds of public records, everything from real property to corporation to Dun and Bradstreet records, all of which are available from some of the other vendors that we’ve mentioned as well. But, in addition, the primary reason I would use DBT would be for locating people. Even if I know where somebody is currently, I may want their address history to find out where they have been. So I know then that I need to search in those other locations.

DBT has the best people-finding tool imaginable. It’s called Faces of the Nation.

I may want to search criminal records, civil litigation, tax liens, bankruptcies, judgments, real property, you name it. Sometimes you find information in Faces of the Nation that you don’t find elsewhere. They also have records from individual states that you may not be able to find through another vendor. Particularly Florida; they have vast coverage of Florida public records. Florida is a sunshine state in more ways than one, certainly as far as public records are concerned. It’s a very, very open state. You can find everything from divorce records to permits to carry a concealed weapon. You name it and it’s there.

How about Information America or CDB? What particular things would you use those for?

It’s more a question of whether they cover a particular geographic area or, if more than one covers an area, then who has the strongest coverage. If it was Harris County, Texas, would I go to CDB Infotek? Would I go to Information America? You have to be so cautious with online records searching because they’ll say it’s statewide or nationwide, and it just isn’t. You hear in the media all the time about these “big brother” databases. Well, I’m afraid, folks, it ain’t quite the way it’s portrayed to be. You have to see what’s really, truly included in any particular database, and I don’t think any of the vendors do a very good job of making that information available to subscribers online. You often have to call customer service and ask, “What exactly am I getting with this search, and what are the inclusion dates?”

How do you keep up with the ongoing changes in the different databases and commercial vendors? Is there a good source for monitoring what’s going on?

There is no good source. It’s very hard. You have to keep your eyes open. I network with a lot of people and I interact online with others. That’s the main way I keep up. It’s very helpful in terms of learning about sources that are changing, coming down the pike, or that have gone away.

Are there types of sites that you tend to go to for additional background information when you begin a project?

Oh, yes. The online stuff is usually the preliminary research phase. I use a search engine like Google to search a particular subject. If it’s a company, I would crawl all over their Web site before I even get into the public records. I might also do some newspaper searching, and take a look at SEC filings, before I launch myself in a thousand different directions obtaining other kinds of public record information.

It depends on the budget. If it were a little project, I might just go to free sites if I could possibly do it that way. If it were a more in-depth project, I would use a commercial vendor to provide the information. I often work with colleagues, especially in AIIP, the Association of Independent Information Professionals. I might rely upon AIIP members to do periodical searching for me because that’s not my forte. I often farm that out to somebody else because, frankly, they can do it better than I can. I digest the information that they provide, and that may point me in some directions I may not have even thought of.

I wouldn’t dream of doing patent searching. I’ll call an expert on that. It’s just not what I do. I think it’s important for people to know what they can do and do well. When I talk to other people who say, “Oh, I’ve got CDB Infotek, I can search public records,” I often think to myself, “Well, okay, but it’s very dangerous.”

How has the Net changed the way you search?

I have so many sites bookmarked it’s ridiculous. Besides the individual sites, there are a lot of others, like that BRB site I mentioned, that list tons of sources available for free. The specific sites I use a lot include Search Systems by Pacific Information Resources. They’ve got over two thousand public record sites of all kinds, which I like very much. I can find information nationwide by state and, within states, by various counties and so on. Then there’s U.S. Party/Case Index, which includes most U.S. District and Federal Courts. You can look up cases by the parties to the suits, or by case number, or even by Social Security or tax ID number of the parties involved. I also use the California Secretary of State, and the N.J. Division of Revenue, for example, with records available online. I’ve got sites that list registered sex offenders. There’s a List of Defaulted Borrowers in the Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Program for chiropractors, doctors, dentists, and so on; it’s also known as “Defaulted docs”.

Defaulted docs, I love it. What a great name.

I do an awful lot of research on physicians and that can be very, very interesting. There are a lot of sites, like AIM DocFinder (Administrators in Medicine), where you can find out about any kind of disciplinary actions against a physician. You can go to the American Board of Medical Specialties certified doctor home page to find out if they’re board-certified in a particular area of specialization.

One of my favorite sites in California is the California Docfinder. This is produced by the California Medical Board, and it tells you things like where they went to school. It lists disciplinary actions, too.

I’ve got a lot of information pertaining to topics like elections and campaign contributions. Those are areas where the Web is very, very useful—California codes, California legislative information, legislative tracking.


1 See http://info.sims.berkeley.edu/sfsla/bulletin/novdec99/rugge.html or http://www.infotoday.com/it/jul99/tribute.htm <back to text>
2 Levine, Stephen and Barbara Newcombe, Paper Trails: A Guide to Public Records in Califormia, California Newspaper Publishers Association, 1995. For information, or to order: www.cnpa.com. <back to text>
3 Culligan, Joseph, J., You, Too, Can Find Anybody, Research Investigative Services, Miami, 1998. <back to text>
4 De Mey, Dennis L. and James R Flowers, Don’t Hire a Crook: How to Avoid Common Hiring (and Firing) Mistakes, Facts on Demand Press, 1999. <back to text>
5 Ray, Don, Checking Out Lawyers: What You Should Know before Choosing an Attorney, Military Information Enterprises, 1997. <back to text>

Posted in: Features, Public Records