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Judges deciding between juvenile and adult court must ask, “Is there a program that can provide immediate safety to the public and make recidivism less likely?” wrote Judge Alan M. Wilner for the court's unanimous majority. “If so, absent some other circumstance, the child should be transferred to or remain in the juvenile system.” (File photo)

Rule on personal info certificate may wait

Top court to consider deferral; Rules body to revisit requirement

Maryland’s top court on Tuesday will consider deferring implementation of a rule that, beginning July 1, would require attorneys to certify they have not included any litigant’s Social Security, taxpayer identification, bank account or medical account number in each document they file with the court.

The Court of Appeals is expected to vote on the deferral after a public hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The action comes amid concerns from District- and circuit-court clerks about their duties under the rule, including the requirement that they reject any filing that does not include a Certificate of Exclusion of Personal Identifier Information.

“In the past three weeks, we have received a trickle of concern from some clerks about the breadth of the rule and what they perceive as problems in administering it,” retired Judge Alan M. Wilner, who chairs the Maryland Judiciary’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, said Monday.

Deferring Rule 1-322.2 would be “just a precaution to see how serious this is and what, if anything, should be done about it,” said Wilner.

Clerks — and the public — will have an opportunity to voice their concerns about the rule itself (as opposed to the deferral), at a Rules Committee meeting Thursday in Annapolis, he added.

The rule, intended to ensure that litigants’ personal information remains private, has also drawn criticism from attorneys who view the certification as duplicative.

An existing rule already bars lawyers from including the litigants’ identifying numbers in court filings, said plaintiffs’ attorney Ronald V. Miller Jr.

“The certificate is requiring you to certify what you are already required to do anyway,” said Miller, of Miller & Zois LLC in Glen Burnie. “It elevates form over substance in a way that we should avoid.”

The certification requirement also applies to self-represented litigants, which could result in indigent plaintiffs being denied their day in court for failing to include a certificate before the time for filing suit expires, Miller said.

“Why create more hoops?” he added.

Attorney Larry D. McAfee, who handles medical-malpractice defense, said a certification requirement is unnecessary because lawyers should not include the litigants’ identifying numbers in public filings.

“Those that take the time to redact as a matter of course don’t need the certification,” said McAfee, of Gleason, Flynn, Emig & Fogleman Chtd. in Rockville. “I do think it’s a little duplicative.”

Beginning at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Court of Appeals will hold a public hearing and vote in its conference room on whether to defer implementation of the rule pending further examination by the Rules Committee.

The high court approved Rule 1-322.2 last July 2, the same day it adopted an amended rule barring inclusion of the identifying numbers on filings.

As originally adopted in April 2013, Rule 1-322.1 also required redaction of birth dates. However, that requirement was lifted after the House of Ruth and family law advocates and attorneys raised concerns about its effect on protective orders and rulings related to child support.

The Administrative Office of the Courts also raised concerns over the application of Rule 1-322.1, leading to a clarification in the amended rule that it did not apply to administrative records, business license records and notice records.

Although amended Rule 1-322.1 went into effect last July, the court delayed implementation of 1-322.2 until July 1, 2014, to give lawyers and clerks time to adapt to it.