PUBLIC ACCESS POLICY – New Restrictions to Protect Privacy

On January 6, 2018, the new Public Access Policy rule will go into effect in Pennsylvania to limit the personal information contained in court files accessible to the public. It is likely to have significant impact in family law cases like divorce and custody, where attorneys and individuals representing themselves will be required to exclude personal information from pleadings that are open to the public. It does not matter whether the court records are available to be seen at the courthouse or online. The public access policy applies to all documents that are filed containing some types of private information.

The Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) has developed the policy to bring uniformity to the way that courts in the Commonwealth protect sensitive information. Both the lower/trial courts and the appellate courts have been allowing electronic filings and remote access to case records, but the new policy will limit the types of documents and information that can be viewed. If it is considered to be a public record in the courts, petitioners will be required to omit or redact certain information. This includes the dates of birth of minors, social security numbers, and financial account numbers among other things. The entire policy, including a description of all information that will be considered confidential can be read at .

It is a growing concern that privacy is violated with many kinds of online access, in courts and elsewhere. It is expected that each county court in Pennsylvania will now protect the same private information by excluding it from the public eye, but it will be important to check local court rules for the required method of compliance. In most cases, the attorney or individual filing a pleading can remove the information that is considered to be confidential, but there are other methods of compliance. Section 7.0 of the policy includes a list of confidential information to be excluded and allows the court to impose sanctions for noncompliance.

If you have questions about how to comply with the public access policy, consult with an attorney at the Mazza Law Group, P.C. for representation or assistance.

PUBLIC ACCESS POLICY – New Restrictions to Protect Privacy was last modified: December 18th, 2017 by Joseph Swartz