Florida’s Supreme Court has put its foot down on judges and clerks that seal records. It has adopted interim amendments to Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.240 to articulate the circumstances under which court fiings can be kept secret from the public.
The Court describes the amendments as requiring the following:
1. A request to make court records in noncriminal cases confidential must be made by written motion. [Note: an Agreed Order will not work.]
2. A public hearing must be held on any contested sealing motion and may be held on certain uncontested sealing motions.
3. A sealing order issued by a court must state with specificity the grounds for sealing and the findings of the court that justify sealing.
4. All sealing orders must be published to the public.
5. A nonparty may file a motion to vacate a sealing order.
6. A public hearing must be held on any contested motion to vacate a sealing order and may be held on certain uncontested motions to vacate.
7. A court may impose sanctions on any party who files a sealing motion without a good-faith basis and without a sound factual and legal basis.
8. Most significant for our purposes here, by mandating that the case number, docket number, or other identifying number of a case cannot be made confidential, the removal from public view of all information acknowledging the existence of a case is expressly not allowed.
The Court’s Order may be read here. The text of the interim rule begins on page 19.