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Privacy

Court papers are public records. Anybody can search the court system online and see the court papers submitted in a case. Because court cases are public, some courts do not want you to file personal information and require you to delete part of the information from the court papers in a special way. This is called redaction. In other cases, where the court needs the personal information, or where your safety is in danger if the personal information is public, the court case can be kept private by restricting all or part of the case by court order. This is called sealing. Other cases are always private because the law says so.

 

Keeping a Case Private

Cases can be closed to the public by court order. This is called sealing a case. If a case is sealed it can’t be seen without a court order. Some cases, like adoption cases, are always sealed. In other cases, if you want the case sealed, you have to ask the court by making a motion or an order to show cause. See How to Ask the Court For Something. You must give the judge a good reason why the whole case or part of the case should be sealed. The judge will seal the case if your reasons are stronger than the public’s right to information. See Trial Court Rules Part 216. For example, child abuse, sexual assault, mental health, drug abuse, domestic violence, and name change records often have strong privacy reasons for sealing a case.

Before you make a motion, read the topic section on your case or call the court to see if your case is sealed.

 

Cases that are Always Private

Some records and cases, like divorce, are not open to the public. See Chart of Confidential Records. You would need a court order to see these records. These cases have different laws and exceptions, so make sure you check with the court or visit a Help Center or law library to find out the rules that apply if your case is private.

 

Editing Private Information From Court Papers

There are rules in civil cases, like cases for money or foreclosure, that say you must delete part of the personal information from the court papers in a special way. This is called redaction. Read Redaction to learn what information must be edited and how to submit private information to the court.

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