Attorneys practicing in federal court are by now likely aware of Rule 5.2, which requires that “an electronic or paper filing with the court that contains” a social security number, tax identification number, birth date, the name of an “individual known to be a minor,” or a “financial-account” number be redacted in the manner set forth in the rule. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(a)(1)-(4). The rule addresses concern for public access to electronic case files because “any personal information not otherwise protected by sealing or redaction will be made available over the internet.” The consequences of failing to comply with Rule 5.2 can be costly. See, e.g., Engeseth v. County of Isanti,
665 F.Supp.2d 1047, 1048-1049 (D. Minn. 2009).
A similar rule applies in state court. Rule 11 of the General Rules of Practice for the District Courts provides that “[n]o party shall submit restricted identifiers on any pleading or other document that is to be filed with the court” and defines “restricted identifiers” as social security, employer identification, and financial account numbers. Rule 11 also addresses the submission of tax returns, credit card statements, bank statements, and “other financial information deemed financial source documents by court order.” Financial source documents “shall be submitted to the court” under seal in the manner set forth in the rule. A party that violates the procedures of Rule 11 may needlessly subject itself to sanctions.
Bottom line: sirens should sound in your office whenever you are filing documents that contain financial or other private information with your next submission to the court—be it federal or state court. And, don’t forget that medical records often contain social security numbers that need to be redacted.
Matthew S. Frantzen
Lind, Jensen, Sullivan & Peterson PA