Personal identifying information in exhibits

January 2007
By Judge John Wittmayer, Multnomah County Circuit Court

How often have you seen personal identifying information in exhibits that are offered and received into evidence in trial or attached to motions or pleadings? This happens in civil litigation, as well as criminal cases and family law cases.

Along with the name of the person whom the exhibit references, we commonly see Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, next of kin, etc. While this most commonly occurs with medical records, many other types of exhibits we see in court also contain this type of information.

While in civil and family law litigation exhibits are generally withdrawn at the end of trial, the court retains the exhibits after criminal trials. With trial exhibits and certainly with documents that are attached to motions and pleadings as exhibits, there is a very real risk this personal identifying information could be inappropriately used (read: identify theft).

Practice tip: Redact personal identifying information from exhibits before using the documents as exhibits to court filings or in trial. Be sure to tell the other side what has been redacted.