The PA Supreme Court has instituted a new policy that will greatly change the way attorneys access and file case records. As of January 6, 2018, greater restrictions will be placed on accessing entire case records online, as well as posing “additional administrative requirements” for attorneys filing pleadings.
In some counties, attorneys who are accustomed to accessing case records online will be restricted. The restrictions will impose new burdens on attorneys, especially those monitoring family law cases and estate proceedings. For example, attorneys trying to access case records in family court actions or in actions governed by the decedents, estates, and adult protective service cases, will need to be aware that “only the party’s name, city, state and zip code of their address, the counsel of record and counsel’s address, the docket number, the docket entries, court orders and opinions, filing date of the case, and case type will remain accessible remotely”. If a record is not excluded from public access as noted above, then the policy should allow attorneys to have access to the records remotely.
A second rule will create additional requirements when filing pleadings. The new policy will require attorneys to redact specific personal information from pleadings (i.e. Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, driver’s license numbers, state I.D. numbers, etc.). If this information needs referenced, the Supreme Court has devised two procedures for attorneys to file the confidential records:
- All confidential information must be removed from the pleading and described in a separate, Confidential Information Form.
- The attorney must provide a redacted and unredacted version of their filings, with the redacted version made viewable to the public.
Individual counties will have the opportunity to determine which of the above redaction policies they wish to enforce. However, the first option will be used as the default method if a county rule is not adopted.
In the future, attorneys will need to be cognizant as to whether their pleadings will contain confidential information or if the records they are accustomed to accessing remotely will need to be obtained in-person at the courthouse.