For attorneys

Protection of information (redaction, confidentiality, sealing)

Guidelines

Protected information

New Wisconsin Statute § 801.19 defines five specific numbers as "protected information." Beginning on July 1, 2016, the following numbers should not be included in public documents that are filed with the Wisconsin courts:

How to redact a document

"Redact" means to obscure individual pieces of information within a document:

If the number is required by law or is needed for the case, you should submit it separately on a confidential disclosure of protected information form (GF-241). If the court doesn't need the number, you simply leave it out.

The redacted copy will go in the public case file. The court may ask you to produce the original unredacted document if necessary, but you do not need to submit it unless requested. If you need to remove protected information from a record filed before July 1, 2016, use form GF-242. For redaction of a transcript, use form GF-243.

This statute applies to all court cases, even confidential cases like juvenile and guardianship. If you fail to redact protected information, the court may order you to submit new documents and pay any costs incurred by other parties. If you purposefully reveal the protected information of another person, you may be subject to sanctions such as attorney fees and costs. New statutes and forms are available for identifying other confidential records and for sealing court records.

Whether you are redacting on paper copies or electronic, you need to be sure that the underlying information cannot be viewed by others.

How to file a motion to seal

"Seal" means to order that a portion of a document or an entire document not be accessible to the public. Sealing orders apply to the information in all formats, both paper and electronic.

Wisconsin public policy favors public access to government records. Wis. Stat. § 59.20(3) provides specific authority for public inspection of papers required to be kept by the clerk of courts and register in probate. Some court records are protected by Wis. Stat. § 801.19 (social security, financial accounts, and driver license numbers) and Wis. Stat. § 801.20 (listing the court records made confidential by statute). For all other records, if you wish to keep information private, you must file a motion to seal. The motion may extend to an item of information like a name or address, a document like a medical report, or in rare instances the whole case.

The filing party may ask the court to redact (omit or blank out) certain pieces of information, to seal a document, or to seal the whole case. Forms GF-245–247 are available for making a motion to seal the court record or the transcript. The clerk cannot seal a record; this decision must be made by the court. The information may be filed under a temporary seal until the court rules on the motion. The filing party must cite legal authority (such as statutes, court rules, or case law) and any necessary facts to explain why the information should not be publicly available.

Some statutes provide that the court may seal certain records or seal the whole case:

There are a number of important areas where statutory protection is unclear and the case law is not fully developed. If you wish to keep a record private, you should file a motion to seal for the following information:

Other state statutes provide confidentiality for records when held by other custodians. These statutes may be used in support of a motion to the court, but the clerk of court will not treat that information as confidential without an order by the court.

Additional resources

Download printable flyers featuring information on how to redact documents and how to file a motion to seal:

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