By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Beginning January 6, 2018, a new Pennsylvania Supreme Court rule will impact who can access information regarding your legal matter. The rule, which applies to all trial court or appellate cases filed in Pennsylvania, formally recognizes the idea that public records, including court documents, are, well, indeed public. 

In recognition of this fact, the new policy governs how records will be accessible to the public, how requests for access to records will be handled, and how litigants must file documents that are sensitive or contain confidential information. 

Attorneys and their clients must now take care to protect confidential information, such as dates of birth, financial information and social security numbers, from public access and certify that they have done so in accordance with the new policy. To remain private, this information should be kept out of filed pleadings and, instead, listed only in Confidential Information sheets, which do not become part of the public record. While all counties will utilize the Confidential Information sheet format, litigants in Montgomery County may have an extra layer of protection. Montgomery County is currently working on establishing a local rule that would require the filing of redacted and unredacted versions of pleadings, such that only judges and the parties (as well as their attorneys) can view unredacted documents.