Judicial Court Approves Interim Guidelines for
the Protection of Personal Identifying Data in
Publicly Accessible Court Documents
Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court recently approved
Interim Guidelines designed to protect against identity
theft by having court filers omit or delete certain personal
identifying information, such as social security numbers,
in criminal and civil court documents. The Guidelines
for the Protection of Personal Identifying Data (PID)
in Publicly Accessible Court Documents are non-binding
and take effect on September 1, 2009.
The Interim Guidelines
apply only to court documents that are publicly available. It is solely the filer's
responsibility to delete or omit data. The Guidelines contain a number of exemptions
for situations when personal information may be necessary to include in documents
because it is required by law or court rules or for other specific reasons.
A subcommittee of
the SJC Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure,
chaired by Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks, thoroughly studied the issue
of personal data in court documents. After reviewing the Federal rules on personal
identifying data, which took effect in 2007, the subcommittee surveyed judges,
court personnel and others in the Massachusetts courts to determine how rules
requiring partial redaction might apply in the state courts. The subcommittee
focused on specific elements of PID that would be useful in committing identity
theft. Interim Guidelines were developed to begin to protect personal information
in public court documents and to gain experience that will help in formulating
a rule at a later date. Following further internal review, the subcommittee invited
widespread public comment on the proposed Interim Guidelines in 2008. Based on
input received, the Interim Guidelines were revised and approved by the subcommittee
and the Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure,
and then recommended to the Supreme Judicial Court.
fact sheet are
available in court clerks' offices statewide, and can be found at www.mass.gov/courts/sjc/personal-data-guidelines.html.
Comments and suggestions can be sent to PIDGuidelines@sjc.state.ma.us or
to PID Guidelines, Supreme Judicial Court, One Pemberton Square, Suite 2500,
Boston, MA 02108.