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Hearing set for rule to protect personal information in court records

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will be holding a public hearing on a petition to create a new statute that protects personal information in circuit court records.

The court will hold the hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Supreme Court Hearing Room in the state Capitol. Racine County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Ptacek will give a presentation on the proposed rule.

Ptacek, reached Thursday, said the intent of the rule is to reduce identity theft. If the Supreme Court adopts the rule, those who file documents that will become court records must not include information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and passport numbers in those documents. Clerks of circuit court would also have lists of documents that must be filed in a confidential form.

The proposed statute would also amend the current code of civil procedure, putting in place procedures for submitting, sealing and redacting confidential information in circuit court documents.

Ptacek noted that the rule is separate from the proposed mandatory e-filing rule. If the personal information rule is adopted, it will affect both paper and electronically filed cases.

The petition was filed in November by the Consolidated Court Automation Programs Steering Committee.

Another proposal regarding information in court documents, one that protects the privacy of crime victims in appellate documents, is set to take effect July 1.

At the Judicial Council’s April 17 meeting, Greg Weber, the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s appointee to the council, said he is already seeing briefs in criminal cases from private practice attorneys that follow the new rule.

Justices unanimously approved that petition in a February rules conference. The new statute, Wis. Stat. 809.86, requires all Court of Appeals briefs and opinions to refer to crime victims by their initials or by a pseudonym. The rule protects victims in cases that discuss the detail of the crime.

When filing those appellate documents, attorneys and judges will have certify that the rule has been followed. The council had proposed the rule in January 2014.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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