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US Federal Courts Redact Information

Posted by Bill on September 1, 2008

From The Third Branch Newsletter of the Federal Courts:
Read whole story:  Click Here

To protect the privacy of litigants, the Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure require that certain personal data identifiers be modified or partially redacted from federal court case files. These identifiers are Social Security numbers, dates of birth, financial account numbers, and names of minor children, and in criminal cases, also home addresses.

But redaction, once a matter of drawing a heavy black line through the words on paper, has changed with the electronic filing of documents. A black bar drawn over the text is no longer enough to block it from view. In an electronic file, the obscured text still lurks beneath the highlighter box and can be readily recalled. The text is hidden, not excised.

Attorneys filing pleadings recently in a Connecticut case learned that lesson the hard way. They created black boxes to cover text they wished to redact. Unfortunately, simply pasting the text into a Word file revealed the hidden information. Changing the text color to white so it disappears against the white screen/paper is similarly ineffective.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA,


2 Responses to “US Federal Courts Redact Information”

  1. There is software that will permanently remove personal information,

  2. Bill said

    True, Roy, and many courts are trying out new methods. Also, courts in Virginia are requiring people to submit documents without full ID data.

    Bill Lowrance
    President PIAVA

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