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Court Has New Public Access Policy for Appellate and Trial Court Case Records

"[T]he courts are constantly considering issues regarding the need for openness and transparency and the concern for personal privacy and security." (Explanatory Report, Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts, 47 Pa.B.301)

The PA Supreme Court has published a new policy entitled Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts that will govern the public's access to case records. The policy goes into effect 1/6/2018 and provides clear guidelines for those who file court documents and those who wish to view them through the court.  It aims to balance access to information with privacy concerns, while at the same time ensuring that the court's ability to conduct business in an orderly fashion is not impeded.

According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Court's 1/6/2017 news release, the policy provides several different ways of safeguarding sensitive information.  As one example, certain types of information, such as Social Security numbers, cannot be included in court filings, but instead must be identified to the court on a separate form (or the court may require a party to file two versions of every document, one with redacted information available to the public and another unredacted version). Further, certain documents, like financial documents, must be filed with a Confidential Document Form and will not be accessible to the public. For more details on the safeguards and new procedures, check out the Court's policy which is available on the Unified Judicial System's website (includes news release) or in the Pennsylvania Bulletin (47 Pa.B. 291).

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