Issue: Protection of Social Security Numbers
Social security numbers (SSNs) are present in many state court documents and files. Federal legislation prohibiting the unconditional acquisition and “display” of SSNs to the public would place a burden on some courts in maintaining these files as open public records.
CCJ and COSCA have expressed grave concern over the courts’ ability to meet the social security number redaction requirements in proposed privacy protection legislation and urge Congress to work with the Conferences to find effective solutions to this matter.
Several legislative proposals would require the redaction of social security numbers found in ‘public’ documents.
A briefing was provided to “Elected Clerks of Court” by GRO staff on 5/25/05. CCJ/COSCA’s Court Management Committee suggested outreach to this group since elected clerks will be on the “front line” if such a policy is enacted. The group committed to contact their congressional representatives and express their concern with this bill. Another privacy bill (S 1332) that was introduced on 7/5/05, S 1332, lists COSCA as an organization to contribute to a report to be prepared by the Comptroller General. Mary McQueen testified on behalf of COSCA before the House Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee on 3/30/06. She outlined the CCJ/COSCA Court Management Committee best practices for protecting SSNs while at the same time maintaining traditional public access to court records and committed to working with Congress to obtain a solution. Congressional staff indicated a willingness to work with state court leaders on exemptions for incidental appearance of SSNs in court records.COSCA President James D. Gingerich testified before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security on 6/21/07. The topic of the hearing was “Protecting the Privacy of the Social Security Number from Identity Theft.”On 3/1/08, GRO staff updated the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks on the state court perspective and prospects on this legislation.HR 3046 was introduced by the Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, Michael McNulty (D-NY), on 7/16/07. HR 3046 was approved by the full House Ways and Means Committee on 7/18/07. HR 3046 requires that state/local governments including courts not sell or display SSNs if such a display is not a “statutory or regulatory” requirement. This requirement is prospective: 1.5 years after enactment of the legislation. We anticipate the renewal of efforts to impose unfunded mandates on state courts regarding the redaction of SSNs in public records in the 111th Congress.