Unringing the Bell: New Redaction Rules in Bankruptcy Cases

Post Authored by Alex J. Whitt

In the course of any consumer bankruptcy proceeding, creditors will deal with a debtor’s sensitive information.  Under Bankruptcy Rule 9037, Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) includes social security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, birth dates, names of minors, and financial account numbers.  This information also cannot be disclosed in full in a filing with the bankruptcy court under the same rule.  But mistakes happen, and a new amendment to Bankruptcy Rule 9037 dictates the procedure for redacting documents containing PII.

Under the new subdivision (h) of Bankruptcy Rule 9037, an entity looking to redact PII from a previously filed document must:

(A) file a motion to redact identifying the proposed redactions;

(B) attach the proposed redacted document to the motion;

(C) include the docket or proof-of-claim number of the previously filed document in the motion; and

(D) serve the motion and attachment on the debtor, debtor’s attorney, trustee (if any), United States trustee, the filer of the unredacted document, and any individual whose personal identifying information needs to be redacted.

As explained in the Committee Notes, the new rule is designed to be flexible in order to protect the PII.  For example, a single motion may relate to more than one unredacted document.  Additionally, the rule will allow courts to fashion, by order or local rule, procedures to redact PII.  If a movant wants to redact a large number of documents, the courts can fashion a procedure allowing the movant to file an omnibus motion, initiate a miscellaneous proceeding, or proceed in another manner directed by the court.

Additionally, under subsection (h)(2), the court must promptly restrict public access to the motion and the unredacted document pending its ruling.  This helps protect the information as soon as possible since the motion to redact itself can itself bring attention to that sensitive information.

If the court grants the motion, it must docket the redacted document and restrict public access to the motion and unredacted document.  If the court denies it, the restrictions are lifted.

About the Author:

CBA-Meet the Com.-5115Alex Whitt is an associate at Hiltz Zanzig & Heiligman LLC and concentrates on representing consumer debtors in chapter 7 and chapter 13 cases.  Alex attended the University of Iowa where he graduated with honors with degrees in English and Linguistics.  He then attended law school at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. While in law school, Alex served as Executive Justice of the Moot Court Honors Program and worked as an extern for then Chief Bankruptcy Judge Bruce W. Black.  Alex graduated from the John Marshall Law School in the top ten of his class.  He serves as a Director in the Young Lawyer Section’s Executive Council of the Chicago Bar Association.

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