TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Certain personal information such as driver license, credit card and social security numbers must be kept out of court documents or truncated under new privacy rules the Florida Supreme Court approved Thursday as a step toward going to an electronic record system in the future.
The justices, though, temporarily exempted traffic and criminal cases from the rules that go into effect Oct. 1.
The high court asked Florida Bar committees dealing with those areas to come up with draft proposals by Dec. 1. The justices acknowledged that defense lawyers, prosecutors, law enforcement and others in the criminal justice system need to have access to sensitive information.
"However, filings in criminal and traffic cases contain a large portion of the personal information filed with our courts and a 'blanket' exemption for those filings would not be necessary if a finely tailored rule can be drafted to govern them," the justices wrote in an unsigned unanimous opinion.
At oral argument in February, Justice Barbara Pariente said she was frustrated that work on the privacy rules began eight years ago yet the committees on criminal and traffic rules hadn't submitted any proposals.
"This shouldn't be that complicated," she said. "Let them get on the stick and get the rest done."
The high court wants to ensure personal information is protected before the public is provided with full electronic access to court records.
Opinions, legal briefs and certain other documents related to Supreme Court cases already are available on its website, but aside from some high-profile cases, few trial courts post similar records online.
The Florida rules are based on a similar rule used by the federal court system, which has for years had an online record system.
The state rules will apply to civil and family law cases as well as small claims and appellate courts.
Courts records no longer will be allowed to contain social security, bank, credit card, charge account or debit account numbers with certain exceptions authorized by the rules or state law.
Only the last four digits of driver license, passport, taxpayer identification, patient and health care numbers will be permitted. Other types of personal information such as email addresses and passwords also must be truncated.
Minors will have to be identified by initials rather than their names and only the year of a person's birth will be allowed rather than the entire date, again with some exceptions.
For example, a minor's full birth date will be permitted to establish jurisdiction in juvenile court and full account numbers will be allowed to identify property that is the subject of a proceeding. A minor's full name also will be allowed in cases affecting the child's ownership of real property.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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