A new state law says that Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers are “not required to identify and designate information as confidential” in small claims, county civil and most circuit court documents, according to a news release shared with The Laker/Lutz News by the office of Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles.
The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers (FCCC) sent out the release to alert the public about a recent amendment made by the Florida Supreme Court, regarding the review and redaction of confidential information contained in certain court documents.
Beginning July 1, filers became solely responsible for ensuring that any confidential information contained in court records filed with the clerk is appropriately identified for redaction in these cases, the FCCC news release says.
A filer is defined as anyone who submits official court documents with the clerk to start or support a legal action, the news release says.
If a filer drafting a document believes it contains confidential information, he or she should: Exclude the information if it is not necessary; or complete a Notice of Confidential Information Within Court Filing form before filing.
Filers are required to identify the precise location of all instances of confidential information within the document – including page numbers and attachments, appendices and exhibits.
The amended rule affects small claims, county civil, and most circuit civil court cases, except for Jimmy Ryce civil commitments, cases stemming from sexual assault, medical malpractice filings and family law cases, the release adds.
Clerks around the state are exploring options across county offices to address the amendment’s broad implementation. Clerks strongly suggest attorneys, legal professionals and self-represented litigants review the amendment and become fully familiar with the rule change.
To help filers prepare and reduce the risk of confidential information becoming public record, FCCC is developing a communications campaign to help educate attorneys, self-represented litigants, and legal professionals on the rule change.
Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.420 outlines 23 categories of information automatically confidential in court records, such as Social Security numbers, health records, bank account numbers, addresses of domestic violence victims, and juvenile delinquency records.
Previously, clerks would independently review all filed records to further identify and redact confidential information protected by the rule, the release says.
In accordance with the amendment, clerks no longer are required to perform this review and are obligated to protect information in civil and small claims cases only when notified by filers, by court order, or when the case itself is confidential under law, the release adds.
See Supreme Court Opinion No. SC20-175 for the full text of the Florida Supreme Court’s amendment.
For more information on the rule change, visit FLClerks.com/ConfidentialRuleChange.
Published July 21, 2021