I have previously written about the proposed rules changes by the NJ Supreme court regarding public access to court records here and here. In a nutshell, we have an open and public court system. Most (but not all) records of the court are public but are currently accessible only at the courthouse. Justice Albin was charged with reforming these rules to reflect 21st century issues such as internet access and privacy. As part of the overall rules changes approved by the Supreme Court, most of the recommendations of Albin’s committee were approved and will become effective September 1, 2009 along with other approved changes. The formal rule is 1:38. The modifications are as follows:
- Closed or inactive account numbers and information are not considered to be private and thus do not need redaction.
- The court may charge a fee to mass redact social security numbers in already existing records.
- The obligation to redact confidential personal identifiers from documents submitted to the court applies to litigants and attorneys in all cases — and must certify same.
- Financial records of guardians and incapacitated persons shall be confidential and available only to spouses, domestic and civil union partners, and family members of the ward to the third degree of consanguinity. The court thought that making them public would enable exploiting of the most vulnerable in our society.
It is unclear how quickly internet access for court records will occur given the fiscal realities of the state of NJ in 2009 — but the road has been laid out.
What does this mean to you? Your records in the future (including potentially retro-actively) will be far more accessible to anyone who cares to see it. Mediation is a confidential process, whether for a divorce. commercial dispute or family dispute. If you want to keep your information from public view, mediate your divorce or dispute. If you would like to discuss this further, feel free to contact me at 732-963-2299 or via my website.