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Development of Privacy Policy

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The Development of the Judicial Conference Policy on Privacy and Public Access to Electronic Case Files

The policy of the Judicial Conference on privacy and public access to electronic case files has developed incrementally over the years. The policy has evolved to the point that it now provides for remote access to all electronic civil, bankruptcy and criminal case files with appropriate privacy safeguards. The Conference continues to review its policy as the need arises and will seek public comment where appropriate.

The following is a chronological summary of the steps taken to create the policy:

The process began in November 2000, when the Subcommittee on Privacy and Electronic Access to Case Files of the Court Administration and Case Management Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States solicited comments on privacy and public access to electronic case files. Comments Received in 2000-2001.

Following an extensive comment period and public hearing, the Subcommittee developed a final set of privacy policy recommendations that were endorsed by the full Committee in June of 2001 and adopted by the Judicial Conference of the United States in September 2001. The policy provided for remote public electronic access to case file documents in civil and bankruptcy cases with certain personal identifiers redacted. It called for a study prior to allowing remote public access to documents in criminal case files.

In March 2002, the Judicial Conference created a pilot project to allow for the study of remote public electronic access to criminal cases as required by the initial policy. The pilot project allowed remote public access to electronic criminal case files in 11 courts for study purposes. The Conference also permitted public access to electronic criminal case files in high profile cases if certain criteria were met.

At its September 2003 session, the Judicial Conference amended its 2001 policy regarding criminal case files to allow remote public access to electronic files as long as specified personal identifiers were redacted. However, the Conference deferred implementation of this new policy until it could review specific guidance for how the policy would operate in the courts. Criminal Case File Exceptions.

The Conference approved the requested specific guidance for the implementation of the amended criminal policy in March 2004. Criminal Case File Guidelines Although the criminal policy has been amended to allow electronic access to certain case files, such access will not be effective until necessary software changes are completed. News Releases

In December 2006, the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management amended its report (contained in the policy) to allow, if a court so chooses, the electronic filing of the administrative record in social security cases

On December 1, 2007, Federal Rules of Appellate, Bankruptcy, Civil, and Criminal Practice and Procedure that implement the E-Government Act of 2002 become effective. The amendment to Appellate Rule 25, and new Bankruptcy Rule 9037, Civil Rule 5.2, and Criminal Rule 49.1 require that personal identification information be redacted from documents filed with the court — Social Security and taxpayer identification numbers, names of minor children, financial account numbers, dates of birth, and, in criminal cases, home addresses. More information on the rules may be found here.

At its meeting in March 2008, upon the recommendation of the Court Administration and Case Management Committee, the Judicial Conference of the United States approved streamlining the policy on privacy and public access to electronic case files to eliminate provisions that are duplicative of the newly-effective Rules of Practice and Procedure. The revised policy is available here. This policy is now the official Judicial Conference policy.

FORMER Judicial Conference Privacy Policy
(As amended by the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management in December 2006)

Limited Exceptions to Judicial Conference Privacy Policy for Criminal Case Files
(Adopted March 2002)

Criminal Case File Policy Guidelines and Local Rule
(Adopted March 2004)

Actions from 2001-2004