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Maintaining Privacy in Bankruptcy Court Filings

Maintaining Privacy in Bankruptcy Court Filings [1]Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.

The Bankruptcy Court Now Maintains a Privacy Rule

Over the past several years, the Bankruptcy Court began addressing concerns over privacy and identity theft.  As such, we have Bankruptcy Rule 9037 to protect the rights of debtors and other parties. 
 
This statute requires anyone filing documents with the Court to remove or redact certain personal data that can be considered sensitive.
 
Generally, the following sensitive identity and account information should be modified as indicated:
 
–           only the last four digits of an individual’s Social Security number or taxpayer identification number
–           only the last four digits of a financial account number, and not the entire account number
–           only the year of an individual’s birthdate, and not the month or exact date of birth
–           only the initials of a minor should be stated when referring to children
 
The Bankruptcy Attorney Is Responsible for Redacting Sensitive Information
 
Bankruptcy attorneys have the obligation to carefully review all documents prior to filing to ensure that any sensitive information is redacted.
 
The Court has become so concerned with ensuring compliance that attorneys must now click a box when entering the Court’s ECF (electronic case filing) website, to indicate that they are aware of this requirement.
 
In those instances when my office has to file pay stubs or other documents that may contain sensitive data, we always review them prior to scanning them.  For example, should there be a Social Security number, we redact it with a heavy black marker prior to scanning.  In the actual bankruptcy petition, we only include the last four digits of account numbers and the last four digits of the Social Security number.
 
Special Provision to Restrict Viewing
 
Although used very rarely, an attorney can bring a special Motion to Restrict Viewing of a particular document to court staff only.
 
Are Tax Returns Actually Filed with the Bankruptcy Court?
 
In all consumer bankruptcy cases, the debtor must provide the most recent tax return to the Chapter 7 trustee.  In Chapter 13 cases, the last two tax returns are provided.
 
These returns are not actually filed with the court, but rather delivered to the trustee.
 
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