This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Northern District of New York going live with electronic case filing. Electronic filing has substantially streamlined the filing process and provided far greater public access to the court’s docket. However, inherent within this increased public access rests a strong concern about protecting private or privileged information. I’d like to use this opportunity to discuss some of the ways we as a clerk’s office protect sensitive information.
Local Rule 8.1 establishes a subset of personal information that generally should not be included within a filed document. This information includes Social Security numbers, names of minor children, dates of birth, financial account numbers, home addresses and names of sexual assault victims. While the responsibility to redact this information ultimately rests with the filer of the document, if we encounter a document that contains these personal identifiers, our internal practice is to place a restriction on the document as we reach out to the filer to ensure the inclusion of this information was a conscious decision.
If the inclusion of this information was an oversight, we will discuss with the filer alternative avenues to filing the document while protecting the private or personal information. Counsel is encouraged to discuss this issue with their clients prior to filing documents which may contain sensitive information.
A related issue concerning confidential information arises when parties attempt to file material under seal. Local Rule 83.13, amended on January 1, 2018, sets forth the procedure by which parties may request that a document, or portion thereof, be filed under seal in a civil action. Please review that rule before requesting that material be filed under seal. Finally, please note that the procedure for filing material under seal in a criminal matter is governed by Local Criminal Rule 13.1, which is scheduled to be revised in January of 2019.
As always, if you have any questions regarding electronic filing, please feel free to call our CM/ECF Helpdesk at 1-833-771-4945 and we will be glad to assist.