New confidentiality policy for court records in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania courts have instituted a new records policy that, in an attempt to minimize the disclosure of personal information over the internet, imposes filing requirements and viewing restrictions.
The policy is difficult to understand even with the use of a county-specific chart like this one. Under the policy, Confidential Documents, such as but not limited to bank statements and medical records, must be accompanied by a form.
Confidential Documents are distinguished from Documents Containing Confidential Information, which are documents that include information like bank account and social security numbers.
Treatment of Documents Containing Confidential Information is county-specific. Some counties mandate the filing of the Confidential Document form with Documents Containing Confidential Information. Other counties, like Allegheny, require that two copies of Documents Containing Confidential Information be filed: one with a cover sheet, and one copy with confidential information redacted.
Documents Containing Confidential Information, as well as documents which are neither Confidential Documents nor Documents Containing Confidential Information, must be accompanied by a certificate of compliance. Checking a box when e-filing satisfies the Certificate requirement.
Generally applicable filing exceptions exist for sealed cases or cases exempted from public access.
In addition to restricting what may be filed, the policy restricts what may be viewed. For example, the public can no longer access family court records remotely, except for dockets, court orders, and opinions. For some reason this rule does not apply to civil court records outside of family divisions.
Failure to follow the policy can result in sanctions. Contact our law firm for help.