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 (2017), 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. For example, redaction in published matrimonial decisions is addressed in 22 NYCRR 202.16 (m).
- 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 (2017) (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 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.
- (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.