Public Access Policy FAQ"S
Public Access Policy FAQ"S
The following questions and answers are provided for general information only and may not be completely accurate in every circumstance. This information is not legal advice and is not intended to be legally binding upon Unified Judicial System courts or offices. Please consider contacting the relevant court or filing office about protocols for filing documents in your case.
Frequently Asked Questions – Case Records Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania
With regard to Guardians Ad Litem (GAL), a GAL should be considered a party, and not counsel, a member of the public, or court personnel. In Orphans' Court, a fiduciary (guardian, trustee, GAL, Trustee ad litem, executor, agent, etc.) is a party. In other matters, a GAL may not be a party in the narrowest sense of a “plaintiff” or “defendant," and perhaps a GAL is analogous to amicus curiae. It is recommended that they are treated as a "party" that is subject to the Policy.
The Commentary following Section 11.0 provides in part that “[a] party or party’s attorney is not required to utilize the procedures set forth in this section before making a formal motion for correction of a case record in the first instance.” Thus, the protocols in Section 11.0 should not be viewed as the exclusive means for correcting clerical errors.
Only those unredacted documents filed with a court since the Policy took effect are impacted by Section 9.0(H). From January 6, 2018 until January 1, 2022, an appellate or trial court could permit the filing of any document in two versions, a “Redacted Version” and “Unredacted version,” rather than require the use of a Confidential Information Form, to safeguard the information identified in Section 7.0(A). Beginning January 1, 2022, the Confidential Information Form became the single statewide method to safeguard that information.
Medical records are documents safeguarded by Section 8.0(A)(3). However, Section 7.0 does not list medical information as a piece of information that requires protection. There is no requirement under the Policy to redact or safeguard the mental health issue mentioned in the pleading.
However, attorneys should be mindful of the Rules of Professional Conduct that requires care in protecting the confidential information of clients (Rule 1.6) and competent representation (Rule 1.1).
Sections 7.0 (Confidential Information) and 8.0 (Confidential Documents) are not applicable to documents filed with a court prior to the effective date of the Policy. To the extent that there were policies and rules in place that protected information or documents prior to that date,
then they would govern documents filed before this Policy took effect.
Court generated documents are exempt from Section 7.0.
Under the Policy, the guardian, party to the case, and the attorney of record may review the file. Other individuals would need to petition the court. The Policy does not intend to stop friends or family from taking care of their loved ones in guardianship matters. The Policy is in place to protect the confidential information found in guardian matters from members of the public who have no reason to need that confidential information or have access to it.
Family court records are available at the courthouse facilities under Section 9.0. With regard to a Domestic Relations Office, no public access to child support records except for PACSES dockets, court orders and opinions as provided by legal authority. For more information, please review the Limits on Public Access to Unified Judicial System Case Records
there is a “checkbox” that contains the certification that filers have to
check in order to e-file their documents. Some judicial districts may also have implemented a similar e-filing procedure; if you have questions, it is advised that you check with the pertinent filing office.
When filing your documents in paper form, the Confidential Information
Form or Confidential Document Form contain the required certification. In addition, many party-filed forms in the Magisterial District Judge System (MDJS) also include the required certification.
The AOPC has also created a sample Certification Form that parties, and
attorneys may use as a stand-alone document or incorporate in their filed documents. All Policy forms may be viewed at https://www.pacourts.us/public-records.
The certification is required for every filing.
Section 7.0(A)(5) does not apply to court-generated documents (orders, opinions, etc.).
to Sections 7.0 and 8.0 of the Policy.
The courts are not required to redact their opinions or other courtgenerated documents. It is important that the public has access to and an understanding of the courts' decisions, in order to assure that justice is being done fairly and impartially as well as to promote confidence in the judicial system.
The Confidential Information Form is not accessible to the public. However, the motion, etc. (which has no confidential information) is available to the public.
The Abuse Victim Addendum, and any additional pages, shall only be provided to the court and shall remain confidential.
Yes. The certification is required on every document filed with a court or custodian regardless of whether the filing contains “confidential information” requiring safeguarding under the Policy. It serves the purposes of ensuring that the filing party has considered the Policy for every document before filing the same with the court.
The UJS' Electronic Case Record Public Access Policy also restricts public access to SIDs. See also, Warrington Crew v. Pa. Dept. of Corrections, (Pa. Cmwlth., No. 1006 C.D. 2010, filed Nov. 19, 2010), pertaining to a ruling by the Office of Open Records that a SID is exempt from disclosure through a right-to-know request because such numbers qualify as a confidential personal identification number.