Privacy Protection For Filed Documents in Texas State Courts

With identity theft reaching epic proportions, and the e-filing mandate in Texas, Texas adopted Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21c entitled “Privacy Protection for Sensitive Data” which prohibits the filing of documents containing sensitive data. Sensitive data consists of: (1) a driver’s license number, passport number, social security number, tax identification number or similar government-issued identification number; (2) a bank account number, a credit card number or other financial account number; and (3) a birth date, home address and the name of any person who was a minor when the lawsuit was filed. There are some exceptions such as when the document is specifically required by statute, court rule or administrative order.

Copies of loan or lease agreements and credit card statements that are usually attached to a lawsuit can still be attached if the specific instructions of Rule 21c are followed.  A document containing sensitive data can be filed if it contains a statement in the upper left-hand side of the first page of the complaint or petition: “NOTICE: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS SENSITIVE DATA.” In addition, the sensitive data must be redacted by using the capital letter “X” in place of each omitted digit or character or by removing the data in a manner to show that the information has been redacted.  Rule 21c also places a document retention requirement on the filing party to retain an unredacted version of the filed document for six months after the judgment has been entered.

While Rule 21c expressly states that a clerk may not refuse to file a document that contains sensitive data in violation of the rule, the clerk may identify the error and state a deadline for the error to be corrected with a redacted, substitute document. Because of the way the e-file system works, it is simply better to get it right the first time. The e-filing system is working out the bugs and getting better each day. Hopefully, this helpful reminder will make your e-filing experience better.

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