Real electronic filing may finally make its way to Florida courts in the not-too-distant future. But before that happens, the Florida Supreme Court wants to make sure that there isn’t too much private information in court filings for the public to access.
On June 30, 2011, the Court adopted sweeping new rules about what information can and can’t be put in the court file. Florida litigators who want to avoid the sanctions that can be imposed for violating the new rules shouldn’t wait too long to become familiar with them — they are going into effect on October 1, 2011.
For the time being, the privacy rules don’t affect criminal cases, for the most part, but they affect all civil cases. And the reprieve in criminal cases isn’t likely to last very long.
Here is a breakdown of the Rule changes you need to know:
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.425
Rule of Judicial Administration 2.425, which was added by the Court’s June 30, 2011 Amendments, contains the overarching principles. So if you learn that Rule (and remember to apply it in whatever context you find yourself) you’ll be most of the way there. But one caution: Rule 2.425 only states a default rule — it gives way to conflicting Rules, statutes, and orders.
This chart spells out the types of information that are subject to Rule 2.425:
Restricted Info: Can include in a filing? Exceptions:Child’s Name Initials only Orders re: time-sharing, parental responsibility, or child support. Any document re: child’s ownership of real property. Birthdates Year only Any party’s full birthdate in writ of attachment or notice to payor. Child’s full birthdate when
necessary for jurisdiction.
Social Sec. #s No General exceptions
Bank Account #s No General exceptions
Credit/Debit Card # No General exceptions
Charge Account # No General exceptions
Drivers License # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Passport # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Taxpayer ID # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Employee ID # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Phone # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Insurance Policy # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Loan # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Patient/health care # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Customer Accont # Last 4 digits only General exceptions Email address Truncated General exceptions User name Truncated General exceptions Password Truncated General exceptions PIN #s Truncated General exceptions
Other sensitive info: Truncated as per court order
- Statute, Rule or Order authorizes the inclusion of the information in a filing
- Account number is necessary to identify property at issue in a case.
- Information that is “relevant and material to an issue before the court.” [!!! This looks to me like an exception that you could drive a truck through. It’ll be interesting to see how courts interpret it.]
- Records in an administrative, agency, appellate, or review proceeding.
- Information used by the clerk or the court for file and case management purposes.
- Criminal cases are temporarily exempt.
- Traffic court cases are temporarily exempt.
- Small claims cases are temporarily exempt.
A Few Other Notes:
What effect does Rule 2.425 have on parties’ ability to obtain a protective order? According to the Rule itself, none. But I’d be surprised if judges’ opinions on what information should be kept private were not influenced by the views of the Supreme Court as expressed in Rule 2.425.
The Rule also claims that it “does not affect the application of constitutional provisions, statutes, or rules of court regarding confidential information or access to public information.” I’m not sure how that could be so, but again, we’ll see how courts interpret that subsection.
The Court is also amending quite a few other Rules to accomodate Rule 2.425. Changes are being made to the Rules of Civil Procedure, particularly with regard to filing discovery documents, the Family Law Rules of Procedure, the Rules of Appellate Procedure, Probate Rules, and to a lesser extent, Criminal Procedure and Small Claims Rules, as well as several forms.
The amendments to those rules and forms are listed below.