As discussed in our last blog post, courts must consider a variety of scenarios when devising a strategy that balances access to court documents and protection of personal identification data when making court documents available online. There are tools available to courts to help strategically manage the complexities involved. For example, case and document security levels in your case management system (CMS) can be used to protect data in those cases and documents that by law are restricted, sealed or otherwise confidential.
Similarly, a combination of case and document security features can effectively manage situations where the case requires a security level which differs from that of a particular document contained within it or vice versa.
But what about the volume of cases that are publicly accessible under the law and the documents within them, while public in nature, could contain personal identification data? This is where automated redaction and redaction services come in as important tools in your arsenal.
Similar to how you might tactically utilize system case and document security features to address access requirements, a multi-layered automated redaction approach can be applied to enhance your overall business strategy. Let’s explore this concept by breaking things down a bit further. First, consider the new documents being filed electronically everyday on a variety of cases. Many of these documents are considered public under access rules but could contain personal identification data not accessible to the public. While court rules may place the responsibility on the filer to ensure these personal identifiers are not contained in an otherwise public eFiled document, it is certainly not foolproof when relying on human decision-making. Consider too that in many situations, as a newly eFile document is accepted into the case management system (CMS), it is also simultaneously available to viewed online.
Automated redaction applied at the point of eFiling and prior to its acceptance into the CMS is a first layer defense strategy for new filings. This supports a LEAN processing model whereby the document is automatically reviewed for personal identifiers and if found, a redacted copy created for publication, before it ever reaches the CMS. If the idea of automated redaction on all new filings is not feasible, you may choose to run it instead on those types of documents most likely to contain personal identifiers. Most courts know well which documents are most susceptible.
Next, you might consider how user roles and internal access controls to unredacted documents can be applied in your court organization as an extra protective measure. For example, you may choose to limit access to unredacted documents to only those internal staff requiring the protected information to perform their duties. A judge, for instance, may require access to personal identification information when deciding a case but perhaps not all court staff have this same information need. Providing access to unredacted documents based on user role is a second layer defense strategy to protecting personal identification data contained in the CMS.
Finally, courts may have been imaging documents for years before implementing eFiling and prior to making documents available online. Many historic electronic documents contained in the CMS likely contain personal identification data that by today’s access rules cannot be published online or be present in copies provided to the public without redaction. This is where a third layer of your automated redaction strategy can be applied. Automated redaction can be applied to a store of historical electronic documents prior to publishing them online. While your approach to historical electronic documents may include flagging those caught in the automated redaction process for human verification, it can help accomplish this daunting task much faster with more reliable results over manual review alone. Even if you choose not to publish some or all historical documents, they will still be subject to public copy requests. In this scenario, using “just in time” automated redaction as a public request for copies is received serves as another strategy layer to consider as part of your overall approach. Leveraging “just in time” automated redaction in this business scenario reduces wait time for the customer as well as court staff time spent fulfilling copy requests.
These elements of a multi-layered redaction strategy and more will be discussed at our Solution Showcase presentation at CTC Thursday, September 24th. Join us to learn how automated redaction technology can help you navigate the challenges of providing online access to court records.
About the Author: Troy Burke
With 30 years of experience providing clients with stellar service and strategic solutions for growth and development, Troy is committed to ensuring his customers receive the highest quality solution, training and support with every implementation. He frequently speaks on the topic of redaction and is actively involved with National Association of Court Management, Property Records Industry Association and several other government organizations.