Justices amend public access rules to seal sensitive records

The Indiana Supreme Court has approved amendments to the state’s public access rules to protect certain sensitive records from public view.

The high court issued the order this month amending Rule 5 of the Rules on Access to Court Records. The amendment, which takes effect Friday, affects sections B and E of Rule 5, as well as the commentary.

Under the amendment to Rule 5(B), three additional categories of records can be excluded if they are filed on green paper or electronically filed as a confidential document, with an ACR Form identifying the Rule 5 grounds for exclusion from public access. The three new categories, listed as numbers 11, 12 and 13, include:

  • 11: Photographs, film, video recordings or other similar mediums showing a live individual’s uncovered genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female post-pubescent nipple.
  • 12: Photographs, film, video recordings or other similar mediums showing a live individual engaging in or being subjected to sexual conduct.
  • 13: Guardian ad litem/CASA reports, parenting coordinator reports and custody evaluation reports.

In an amendment to the Rule 5 commentary, the term “uncovered” as used in Rule 5(B)(11) is defined as “unobscured by clothing, censor bars, or other similar coverings.” Also, “(t)he images excluded from public access in Rule 5(B)(11) and (12) are limited to actual visual representations. Subparts (11) and (12) do not include a painting, drawing, or other similar representation,” according to the order.

Rule 5(E)(1) already excludes from public access “(e)ntire criminal cases when a request to exclude Case Records from Public Access is filed contemporaneously with a request for an arrest warrant.” Under the amendment, “When this request is made, the request and the Court Record will be rendered confidential until the Court rules on the request.”

Finally, a second amendment to the Rule 5 commentary notes that “Indiana Probation Standard 1.4 provides that information in probation files is confidential and may only be released in accordance with the Rules on Access to Court Records, state and federal statutes and rules, and policies adopted by the Judicial Conference of Indiana.”

The order can be read here.

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