New York Official Reports
The Law Reporting Bureau has developed these privacy guidelines to ensure that privacy interests of individuals are protected when New York State court decisions are published on the Internet. These guidelines are based on policy guidance from the Unified Court System and the Office of the Chief Administrative Judge.
The LRB publishes in print and online all decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division, as well as selected opinions of the trial courts. After decisions are submitted to the LRB and processed, they are posted to the LRB’s website---usually within several hours---and transmitted to the LRB’s commercial publisher (currently Thomson Reuters Westlaw). Third-party websites often link to decisions on the LRB’s website or republish them.
Given the immediacy of public access to opinions on the LRB’s website, decisions should be reviewed for privacy concerns before they are submitted to the LRB for publication. This review should focus on mandatory redactions, such as those that are required by statute and rules, as well as discretionary redactions, which focus on concerns which may only arise after publication on the Internet.
Before submitting a decision for publication, judges and court staff are asked to consider the following:
- Certain personal identifying information must be redacted in accordance with statutes and rules. Required redactions are discussed in New York Law Reports Style Manual § 12.4 (2022), entitled Personal Identifying Information (reproduced below). Note that section 12.4 includes only a subset of privacy statutes, and other statutes and rules should also be reviewed.
- Other redactions may be made in the discretion of the judge, pursuant to Unified Court System policy. Where confidential, intimate or sensitive details are unnecessary to the holding of the case, consider removing them from the published decision. Where such information is necessary to the holding, consider redacting personal identifying information like names of witnesses, physical addresses, etc.
- Special consideration should be given to whether a party’s name should be redacted for publication purposes. Note that this standard may differ from what is required for an anonymous caption or sealing purposes (see e.g. 22 NYCRR 216.1).
The LRB will contact the authoring judge if any privacy concerns are identified during processing or editing.
Questions about privacy considerations in the publication of court decisions on the Internet can be sent to Reporter@nycourts.gov.
New York Law Reports Style Manual § 12.4 (2022) (Personal Identifying Information)
Privacy interests of individuals should be protected by omitting irrelevant references to personal identifying information and redacting necessary references.
- 12.4 (a) Personal Names
- (1) Children. The name of any person younger than 18 years old should not appear in any published opinion. This includes the surname of an adoptive child (Domestic Relations Law § 112 ) and the name of a subject of a youthful offender proceeding (see CPL 720.35 ). Nor should any opinion contain the surname of any person, such as a parent, who shares a surname with the child.
- (2) Other Persons. The names of affected persons should not appear in any published opinion where court records are made confidential by law or where the sensitivity or circumstances of the case raise privacy concerns. For example:
Special consideration should be given to the possibility that, under the circumstances of a case, the identification of a person in a published decision may raise concerns for that person's privacy or safety, even if that person's role in the case is already a matter of public record. This rule may require redaction of the names of witnesses or other nonparties who are referenced in text.
- (a) The name of any victim of a sex offense or of an offense involving the alleged transmission of HIV should not be published (Civil Rights Law § 50-b).
- (b) In Family Court proceedings, the names of the individual parties should not be published. This includes
custody, paternity, family offenses, juvenile delinquency and PINS proceedings, foster care proceedings, child abuse and neglect proceedings, and support proceedings. (See Family Ct Act § 166.)
- (c) In proceedings under Mental Hygiene Law article 9 (hospitalization of individuals with mental illness), the name of the subject individual should not be published (see Mental Hygiene Law §§ 9.11, 33.13).
- (d) In matrimonial actions, the parties' names should not be published where access to the matrimonial files has been limited pursuant to Domestic Relations Law § 235. See also section 12.4 (e).
- (3) How to Redact. If reference to protected personal names is necessary, use real or fictitious initials or other formats that shield the person from identification. For example, George Jones may be replaced by George J., or G.J., or George RR, or Anonymous.
- 12.4 (b) Numerical Identifiers
- (1) Account Numbers. Numerical identifiers such as Social Security numbers; bank, credit and debit card numbers, insurance policy numbers and other financial account numbers; and driver's license numbers should not appear in any published opinion.
- (2) Birth Dates. The exact date of birth of any individual should not appear in any published opinion.
- (3) How to Redact. If reference to numerical identifiers is necessary, only the last three or four digits should be used (e.g. xxx-xx-1234). If reference to date of birth is necessary, use only the year (e.g. xx/xx/1975).
12.4 (c) Other Identifying Information
Other identifying detail, such as an exact street address, email address, home or work telephone number, name of a child's school or name of a person's employer, should be redacted in whole or in part where publication of that information would tend to identify a person whose identity requires protection under section 12.4 (a) or is not essential to the opinion.
12.4 (d) Consistent Application of Omissions and Redactions
Omissions and redactions should be applied consistently within a decision and to all subsequent decisions in the same action or proceeding, whether they issue out of the trial court or appellate courts. When the name of a party is redacted in the title of a decision, the names of family members sharing the party's surname should also be redacted.
12.4 (e) Mandatory Redaction in Matrimonial Decisions for Publication
Uniform Rules for Trial Courts (22 NYCRR) § 202.16 (o) requires omission or redaction of certain confidential personal information from matrimonial decisions submitted for publication, whether or not a sealing order is or has been sought. That confidential information includes: individual or entity taxpayer identification numbers or any financial account numbers, except the last four digits; the actual home address of parties and their children; the full name of an individual known to be under the age of 18 or of either party in cases containing allegations of domestic violence, neglect, abuse, juvenile delinquency or mental health issues; and any individual's birth date, except the year of birth. The most recent version of section 202.16 (o) should be reviewed and required redactions made prior to submitting any matrimonial decision for publication.
While redaction of the adult parties’ names is not required in all instances, it is strongly encouraged when inclusion of the parents’ full names will likely reveal the identities of minor children whose names are required to be redacted in all published matrimonial decisions.
- 12.4 (f) Other Considerations
Many statutes and rules address privacy without reference to publication. Cases involving the Civil Rights Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Family Court Act, Domestic Relations Law, Mental Hygiene Law, Public Health Law and Social Services Law, as well as specialized acts like HIPAA, the Child Victims Act and the Red Flag Law, should be reviewed carefully before submission for publication. In addition, even where confidentiality is not required, resolution of the issue in dispute may affect an individual’s right to privacy, such as where a party requests youthful offender status, a statute requires the sealing of a defendant’s record after conviction, or a sex offender challenges their risk level. A nonparty’s right to privacy should also be considered, such as where a complainant or witness is a victim of domestic violence or stalking. Special consideration should be given in these—and other—cases to whether an individual’s name, address, or other identifying information should be redacted for publication purposes, in the discretion of the judge. Note that this standard may differ from what is required for an anonymous caption or sealing purposes (see e.g. 22 NYCRR 216.1).