Review of Chapter 16 Redaction Requirements

by Timothy Eckley, Assistant Counsel to the Chief Justice, Iowa Supreme Court

With implementation of electronic filing (EDMS) in Iowa, it is important that all filers redact personal information that could contribute to identity theft or other misuse. The Iowa Court Rules place responsibility on the filer for omitting, or redacting, protected information from filed documents that are or will become public. Filers do not need to redact system-sealed documents or documents filed on confidential case types. Chapter 16 requires that a list of such documents and cases be posted on the eFiling website so that filers know which documents require redactions. Clerks of court will not review filings for improperly included protected information. Clerks of court will not, on their own initiative, redact protected information included in documents that are filed.

Prior to EDMS, attorneys and parties often submitted personal information in court filings even if the information was not material to the case or required by law. EDMS, however, has highlighted the importance of attorneys knowing and following the requirements of the court rules for the handling of protected information in documents filed in the court system. This also includes any parts of a trial record submitted on appeal that may contain confidential or protected information.

The Chapter 16 Rules Pertaining to the Use of the Electronic Document Management System govern electronic filing. Pending completion of statewide implementation of EDMS followed by a comprehensive review of chapter 16, the rules remain interim in nature and are not formally published in the Iowa Court Rules. The rules are available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: http://www.iowacourts.gov/eFiling/Overview/. Division VI of chapter 16, rules 16.601 through 16.609, pertains to protection of personal privacy.

Under rule 16.602 protected information includes the following:

  1. Social security numbers.
  2. Financial account numbers.
  3. Dates of birth.
  4. Names of minor children.
  5. Individual taxpayer identification numbers,
  6. Personal identification numbers.
  7. Other unique identifying numbers.

Protected information that is not required by law or is not material to the proceedings should be omitted from documents filed with the court. Iowa Ct. R. 16.603(1). If the information must be included in the document, it must be submitted to the court on a separate protected information form and be redacted from the document before filing it with the court. Iowa Ct. R. 16.603(2). There is a general protected information disclosure form available on the judicial branch website under the eFiling tab. There are some chapters in the court rules for which specific protected information forms are provided in a fillable and savable format on the website, including the family law forms in chapter 17 and the probate forms in chapter 7.

The redaction rules in chapter 16 apply to all electronically filed documents as well as filings submitted to the court on paper in electronic cases, such as exhibits offered on paper and paper filings from an exempt filer submitted for scanning by a clerk of court.

There are exceptions for full disclosure of protected information if the information “is an essential or required component of the document.” Iowa Ct. R. 16.603(4). All court orders or other court-generated documents requiring enforcement by someone outside of the court system fall under this rule.

Other personal or potentially sensitive information may be redacted from publicly available documents as long as the information is not material to the proceeding or required by law. Rule 16.604 identifies the following information that may be redacted:

  1. Driver’s license numbers.
  2. Information concerning medical treatment or diagnosis.
  3. Employment history.
  4. Personal financial information.
  5. Proprietary or trade secret information.
  6. Information concerning a person’s cooperation with the government.
  7. Information concerning crime victims.
  8. Sensitive security information.
  9. Home addresses.

Sanctions may be imposed against a party purposefully filing documents with unredacted protected information. Iowa Ct. R. 16.609. Sanctions “may include nonmonetary directives; an order to pay a penalty into court; or, if imposed on motion and warranted for effective deterrence, an order directing payment to the movant of part or all of the reasonable attorney’s fees and other expenses directly resulting from the violation.”

Rule 16.608 provides a mechanism for removing improperly included protected information from a filing.

It is important for all filers to heed the requirements of division VI of the chapter 16 court rules. These rules are designed to prevent unnecessary dissemination of personal information that could contribute to identity theft or other misuse of the information.