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News Release


Supreme Court Opinion an Important Step in Online Access to Court Documents

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (July 22, 2011) – A Florida Supreme Court opinion on what private information will be allowed in court documents will offer significant protections to the public from identity theft and other unlawful uses of such data.

Attorneys and people who represent themselves in court proceedings have until October 1 to comply with new rules and forms mandated by the Florida Supreme Court to minimize the amount of private information such as bank accounts and Social Security numbers in court records. Those who don’t comply could face court-imposed sanctions under the new rules.

“In addition to guarding against crimes like identity theft, this latest rule change is a critical step toward making the judicial system more transparent,” Clerk Sharon Bock said. Since 2003, Florida’s Supreme Court has prohibited access to court documents on the Internet because of the potential threats to an individual’s privacy.

 “Today, transparency means electronic access,” Bock added. “These new rules should give the Supreme Court more confidence that people’s private information is protected once court documents are made available online.”

Among the new rules for court documents:

  • A minor can only be identified by his or her initials
  • Only the year of a person’s birth can be included
  • Only the last four digits of a driver’s license, passport, or other identifying number is allowed 
  • Only truncated versions of information such as email addresses will be permitted
  • Attorneys are barred from entering any portion of a person’s Social Security, bank account, credit card or debit card number, unless allowed by another exception or statute

While Clerk Bock was one of the first of Florida’s clerks to implement software that searches for and blacks out sensitive data, the new rules offer an additional layer of security necessary for court documents to be made available online.

Many Floridians are eager to have online access to court records. In Palm Beach County those records have been available in electronic format for years, but Bock said that “until the Supreme Court feels that there are adequate protections in place the public will have to make a trip to the courthouse to see their records.” 

The full version of the Supreme Court’s 289-page opinion is available on their website. The Florida Bar News also has a detailed explanation of the rules change.

For more information about the Clerk’s office, please visit www.mypalmbeachclerk.com or call (561) 355-2996.

The Florida Constitution established the independent office of the Clerk & Comptroller as a public trustee, responsible for safeguarding public records and public funds. Clerk Sharon Bock is directly elected by and accountable to Palm Beach County residents.  In addition to the roles of Clerk of the Circuit Court, County Recorder and Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, the Clerk & Comptroller is the Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Auditor for Palm Beach County.

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