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Important Privacy Protections Under the Federal Rules

Courts are public institutions and court records are generally available to the public.  After your documents are scanned and filed, they will be available via the internet to the general public through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) (www.pacer.gov) and the court’s Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system.  This does not mean the clerk will post your documents on the court’s public website.  But anyone who searches for documents filed in federal court in Montana might locate, view, download, print, and keep the documents you file.  For this reason, CERTAIN PERSONAL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION SHOULD BE OMITTED FROM OR SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED TO THE COURT FOR FILING.

Rule 5.2 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for privacy protection of electronic or paper filings made with the court.  Rule 5.2 applies to ALL documents submitted for filing, including pleadings, exhibits to pleadings, discovery responses, and any other document submitted by any party or nonparty for filing.  Unless otherwise ordered by the court, a party or nonparty filer should not put certain types of personal identifying information in documents submitted for filing to any United States District Court.  If it is necessary to file a document that already contains personal identifying information, the personal identifying information should be “blacked out” or redacted before the document is submitted to the Clerk’s Office for filing.  A person filing any document containing their own personal identifying information waives the protection of Rule 5.2(a) by filing the information without redaction and not under seal.

1.   Personal information protected by Rule 5.2(a):

a.   Social Security and Taxpayer identification numbers.  If an individual’s social security number or a taxpayer identification number must be included in a document, the filer should include only the last four digits of that number (e.g. xxx-xx-5271, xxxxxx3567).

b.   Names of Minor Children.  If the involvement of a minor child must be mentioned, the filer should include only the initials of that child (e.g. L.K.).

c.   Dates of Birth.  If an individual’s date of birth must be included in a document, the filer should include only the year of birth (e.g. xx/xx/2001).

d.   Financial Account Numbers.  If financial account numbers are relevant, the filer should include only the last four digits of these numbers.

2.   Protection of other sensitive personal information: such as driver’s license numbers and alien registration numbers – may be sought under Rule 5.2(d) (filings made under seal) and (e) (protective orders).

The Clerk’s Office will not ask you over the telephone or by email for your birth date, your social security number, your taxpayer identification number, or any financial account or credit card numbers.  If you are asked for this information, always contact the clerk’s office at the official phone numbers to make sure the request is genuine.