Published in Forum 8, Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association, Inc. Newsletter, Vol. 71, No. 2, October of 2011

     On October 1, 2011, new privacy rules become effective in an effort to minimize the amount of unnecessary personal information included in court filings.  The Florida Supreme Court adopted the privacy rules as part of its ongoing effort to provide the public with electronic access to non-confidential court records.  The Court adopted new Rule of Judicial Administration 2.245 and amended the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Florida Probate Rules, the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure and forms to require compliance with the new rule.  (Case No. SC08-2443 (Fla. June 30, 2011)

     Rule 2.245 governs the filing of personal information in all types of cases, except traffic and criminal proceedings; yet, such a reprieve for those cases is only temporary.  The bottom-line is that unless authorized by Rule 2.245, statute, another rule of court, or the court orders otherwise, certain personal information shall not be filed with the court or it must be truncated or redacted before filing.

     Under Rule 2.245(a), only the initials of a minor may be included in information filed with the court except for orders relating to parental responsibility, time-sharing or child support or any document or order affecting the minor’s ownership of real property.  Also, only the year of a person’s birth date may be filed except for in a writ of attachment or notice to payor or whenever the birth date is necessary for the court to establish or maintain subject matter jurisdiction. 

     No portion of any social security number, bank account number, credit card account number, charge account number or debit account number may be filed.  An exception exists for an account number which identifies property alleged to be the subject of a proceeding. 

     Only the last four digits of any taxpayer identification number, employee identification number, driver’s license number, passport number, telephone number, financial account number, brokerage account number, insurance policy account number, loan account number, customer account number or patient or health care number may be filed. 

     If a litigant seeks to file an email address, computer user name, password or personal identification number, it must be truncated

     In addition to the exceptions discussed above, personal information can be included in the record of an administrative or agency proceeding; the records in appellate or review proceedings; information used by the clerk or courts for case management purposes; or if the information is relevant and material to an issue before the court.  Obviously, the last exception could represent quite a large window.  However, while the Florida Supreme Court acknowledges that Rule 2.425 represents a “change in mindset” for attorneys, the Rule does include sanctions for filings not made in good faith.  Regardless, we must all remember that once personal, sensitive information is entered into a court file, it becomes public record.