New York Official Reports
The New York State Reporter has developed guidelines that support the objectives of the Unified Court System and the Office of the Chief Administrative Judge to ensure that the privacy interests of individuals are protected in the publication of New York State court decisions.
In addition to the New York Official Reports print publications, the Reporter publishes online (through the New York Slip Opinion Service on the Law Reporting Bureau website and the New York Official Reports on Thomson Reuters Westlaw) all decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division, as well as selected opinions of the lower courts. Given that the publication of court decisions over the Internet implicates wider considerations of confidentiality and privacy, the Reporter recommends that Judges and court staff take the following precautions in drafting decisions (New York Law Reports Style Manual § 12.4 ):
12.4 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- (a) The name of any victim of a sex offense or of an offense involving the alleged transmission of HIV should not be published (Civil Rights Law § 50-b).
- (b) In Family Court proceedings, the names of the individual parties should not be published.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.”
Judges and court staff may direct questions about privacy considerations in the publication of court decisions and specific to the above recommendations to Reporter@nycourts.gov.