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Personal-info certificates on hold until Sept. 1

Maryland’s top court Tuesday voted to defer until Sept. 1 implementation of a rule that 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.

Rule 1-322.2, which was scheduled to take effect July 1, was opposed in recent weeks by district- and circuit court clerks who expressed concern about their duties under the rule — including their duty to reject any filing that does not include a Certificate of Exclusion of Personal Identifier Information.

The Maryland Judiciary’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure is scheduled to meet Thursday in Annapolis to hear from clerks, and other interested parties, on whether to amend the rule. The delay in implementation by the Court of Appeals will give the Rules Committee time to consider the concerns raised at the meeting.

Cecil County Circuit Court Clerk Derrick W. Lowe, who was at the high court’s voting session, said afterward that he questions the need for certificates, because a separate rule, in place for about a year now, bars attorneys from including the personal information in their filings.

Few, if any, claims have been made that an attorney violated that rule, Lowe added.

The need to confirm that a certificate has been appended to each filing needlessly burdens clerks and requires them to return potentially reams of documents to attorneys who fail to certify them, he said.

“The concerns are the quantity of the documents that are covered by the rule,” Lowe added. “I don’t know what we’re going to accomplish with the certificate.”

Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court Clerk Scott MacGlashan, who also attended the voting session, said afterward that the burden on clerks will be especially onerous with self-represented litigants, who would also be required to include a certificate with all filings but are less likely than attorneys to know about the rule.

Prior to the vote to defer implementation, Court of Appeals Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wondered aloud why the objecting clerks apparently had an “epiphany” just weeks before the scheduled July 1 implementation of a rule the court approved last July.

“Folks have had a year to come to grips with this,” Harrell said.

Judge Lynne A. Battaglia added she was “disappointed” with the late objections.

After the voting session, Lowe said he and other clerks should have been more attuned to the rule’s requirements and come forward earlier.

“We dropped the ball on this,” he said.

The Court of Appeals met to consider deferring implementation at the suggestion of retired Judge Alan M. Wilner, who chairs the rules committee.

Wilner told the high court before its vote that clerks had told him “the rule needs a little more investigation” by the 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 that the rule 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.