New Rules Help Protect Private Information in Court Documents
Under a rule that went into effect July 2013, people who file documents about civil actions in Maryland courts cannot include unnecessary private information, like Social Security numbers or other identification numbers.
Rule 1-322.1 went into effect July 1, and was amended the next day. The key points of the rule and amendments include the following:
Attorneys and anyone else filing pleadings and other papers in a judicial action must keep unnecessary personal information out of court records unless there is a legal obligation to include that information. This includes Social Security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, or financial or medical account identity numbers or codes.
The rule does not include birthdates as personal information that filers must keep out of court filings by redacting (editing out) or other preventive action.
This new rule applies to “pleadings and other papers filed in an action,” that is, papers filed in a case that is in litigation.
The rule does not apply to land records, other notice records as defined in Rule 16-1001(i), administrative records, or business license records.
The rule does not apply to filings that are made by a judge or a judicial appointee.
The new procedures must be followed for documents filed as part of litigation on or after
July 9, 2013.
Rule 1-322.1 complements an existing Maryland law, Real Property Article Section 3-111(b), which protects Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers from being displayed in documents that can be seen on the Internet. In a few years, the Judiciary will switch to a statewide online case management system, referred to as Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC), to collect, store and process records electronically. The new system will ultimately become “paper-on-demand,” that is, paper records will be available when specifically requested.
As the Judiciary moves forward with new technologies to increase efficiency and improve access, the rules that help protect private information and comply with Maryland’s laws are continually being reassessed.
Under another existing Maryland rule, people must notify the court clerk if there is confidential information included in any documents they file. This means a written notification that specifically tells the court clerk what information in the document is confidential.
“There are serious consequences if the new Rule 1-322.1 is not followed: The document may be stricken from the court record, so it is important that people read the rule and the formal notice for more information,” said retired Court of Appeals Judge Alan M. Wilner, chair of the Judiciary’s Rules Committee.