When Private Records Become Public Records

While the majority of public records begin as government documents, there are instances when private records are backed into the public record via court filings.  Bankruptcy court and divorce proceedings necessitate disclosure of financial documents and information such as bank or credit card statements and employment history.  Medical records, police reports and vehicle accident reports are required when relevant to personal injury litigation or domestic violence cases.  Individual and corporate tax returns can become public in tax appeal cases before the US Tax Court. Here are a few recent examples in the news of private records becoming public through court filings:

  • The New York Times featured American Idol contestants' earnings based on information disclosed in juveniles' contracts mandatorily filed in a California state court in Los Angeles.
  • The Florida Times-Union reported on information and disciplinary actions contained in golfer John Daly's personnel file. A court ordered the file from the PGA Tour as evidence in a civil lawsuit filed against Daly in 2005.