How to Keep Your Case Private
If you are in the middle of an estate dispute or any other lawsuit, it is very possible that very private information is going back and forth between the parties. Many types of documents in just about any civil suit are a matter of public record, meaning that someone with good internet search skills could be able to find out all sorts of personal information in just a few clicks. While case information may not be as easy as a simple Google search, in New York County, there may be ways of accessing court databases, and some courts do provide public records for search on the internet. In addition to the courts, parties to the lawsuit may expose court records to being found on the internet, some parties even going as far as purposely releasing records on the internet to cause damage to the other party.
The good news is, there is some information that is not allowed to be made public in any instance and, with the help of your New York estate attorney, you may be able to keep any information on your case from ending up online at all.
In New York County, a court rule was recently passed for Surrogate’s Court stating that certain types of documents would always be subject to a gag order, meaning that they would only be available to the parties and their attorneys. This would mean that the general public would not be able to access these records, even if they went directly to the court clerk and requested them. These documents include:
1. Any and all documents related to guardianship proceedings,
2. Death certificates,
3. Tax returns,
4. Any document with a social security number,
5. Firearms inventory, and
6. Inventory of assets.
If you are hoping to keep out documents or other evidence that do not fall into one of these categories, there are additional steps that you can take to keep them off the public record. Having a gag order in place would mean that all documents from your Surrogate’s Court case be kept confidential. As is the case above, this would mean that only the parties and their attorneys would have access to any and all documentation in a case if a gag order is in place. It would not be listed online through the court system. If a party or attorney releases information subject to a gag order, they could be found in contempt and face criminal penalties.
Getting a gag order is a matter that an attorney should handle. Legally good cause would have to be shown for such an order to be issued. One example of this could be if there are embarrassing personal issues that arise during the proceedings, such as details of declining health of the testator in his or her last days. In some cases, such as in the case of probating the estate of a celebrity, the family may not want the information in the estate to become the subject of media attention. Whatever the reason, a party who wants a gag order would have to have their New York estate attorney show that there are some sort of substantial grounds for issuing the order. Call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.