Trial Court Rules

Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure

Trial Court Rules Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure Rule 11: Material impounded by statute, court rule, standing order, or case law

Effective Date: 10/01/2015
Updates: Amended April 24, 2015, effective October 1, 2015

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Rule 11

Any party or interested nonparty may file a motion supported by affidavit for relief from impoundment or for release of material required to be impounded pursuant to a statute, court rule, standing order, or case law, except where a different procedure is otherwise provided. The procedures set forth in these rules shall govern requests for relief from impoundment to the extent practicable. 

Relief from impoundment shall be granted by the court only upon written findings. 

Committee notes

URIP Rule 11 provides a mechanism for requests for relief from impoundment where a statute, court rule, standing order, or case law requires impoundment. Numerous statutes, court rules, standing orders, and decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court require the courts to impound or withhold specified information from public view. These authorities use different terms and phrases to designate the material that shall be withheld, including “impounded,” “withheld from public inspection,” “not available for public inspection,” “segregated,” and “confidential.” See Section 5 of [the] Handbook. All information designated under these categories falls within the meaning of “impoundment” for purposes of this rule, with the exception of “sealed” records. 

The Supreme Judicial Court has observed that: 

The terms “impounded” and “sealed” are closely related and often used interchangeably, but are meaningfully different. . . . . “[I]mpoundment” means “the act of keeping some or all of the papers, documents, or exhibits, or portions thereof, in a case separate and unavailable for public inspection.” Consequently, an order of impoundment prevents the public, but not the parties, from gaining access to impounded material, unless otherwise ordered by the court. A document is normally ordered “sealed” when it is intended that only the court have access to the document, unless the court specifically orders limited disclosure. 

Pixley v. Commonwealth, 453 Mass. 827, 836 n.12 (2009) (citations omitted). 

Where a party seeks relief from a statute, court rule, standing order, or case law that requires impoundment, the movant shall file and serve a motion supported by affidavit. The URIP procedures shall govern such requests to the extent practicable. See Care and Protection of Sharlene, 445 Mass. 756, 772 n.18 (2006). In addition, URIP Rule 11 permits a clerk to comply with a court order to release or produce impounded information. 

Clerk's Duties 

The clerk has an independent responsibility to ensure that information designated as impounded by statute, court rule, standing order, or case law is maintained as impounded whenever a movant notifies the clerk that impounded information is contained within a filing, or when the case or filing is automatically impounded pursuant to a statute, court rule, standing order, or case law. See Section 5 of [the] Handbook. It is the responsibility of the movant or filer, and not the clerk, to ensure the proper designation of filings as impounded. The clerk does not have any responsibility to screen each filing for impounded information.

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Updates: Amended April 24, 2015, effective October 1, 2015

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