Press Releases

NYC Bar Association Accepting Nominations for the CITY BAR PROPOSES NEW STATE-WIDE PROTOCOL FOR SENSITIVE PERSONAL INFORMATION IN CIVIL COURT DOCUMENTS Court Documents Online Can Contain Social Security Numbers, Birth Dates


Eric Friedman
(212) 382-6754
Kathryn Inman

City Bar Proposes New State-Wide Protocol for Sensitive Personal Information in Civil Court Documents

New York, February 11, 2010 – The New York City Bar Association has proposed a new state-wide rule regulating and limiting the disclosure of sensitive personal information in civil court documents. Currently, there is no comprehensive protocol for including information, like social security numbers and birth dates, in court documents made available to the public—an increasing concern for identity theft and privacy as more court documents are made available online.

The letter and report sent to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau emphasize the need for regulation in an electronic age, where the increasing availability of court documents online increases public access while making it more difficult to retract information once released. The goal of proposing regulation is first to prevent identity theft, and second to prevent the disclosure of sensitive personal information as an “abusive litigation tactic.”

“The reality is that the notion of privacy of court records is a misnomer. Once something is filed, absent a court order sealing a record, there is no such thing as privacy,” states the report. It goes on to say , “Many jurisdictions, including the federal courts and at least fifteen states, have passed legislation or issued rules to help protect sensitive personal information from unnecessary disclosure in court filings. The [City Bar] recommends a court rule for all New York civil courts.”

“We believe the rule we’ve proposed is necessary to protect confidential information and protect against identity theft, especially in light of e-filing present in the courts today, ” said Jay G. Safer, Chair of the City Bar’s Council on Judicial Administration, which authored the report. “We want to draw attention to the problems with disclosing sensitive personal information in civil court documents, which are presumptively public records..”

The City Bar’s recommended rule would omit from paper or electronic documents information including social security numbers; tax identification numbers; bank account numbers; passport, drivers license, government ID numbers or other ID numbers which uniquely identify an individual; the names of minor children; and dates of birth. If there is a necessary and compelling reason to include such numbers in the filing, then only the last four digits, or no more than half of any identification number, should be included; names should only be printed as initials; and only an individual’s year of birth should be printed.

Read the City Bar’s full report here:

About the Association

The New York City Bar Association ( was founded in 1870, and since then has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.