Restrict Access to Electronic Documents

As electronic documents become more prevalent, courts must balance the rights of the public to access information regarding their case with the need to protect privacy. Iowa is one of the states that have already enacted rules restricting access to certain types of files. The rest are evaluating the various options.

The first approach is to keep the presumption that all files that are not sealed must be accessible in the courthouse as well remotely by electronic public access. This option would require that counsel and pro se litigants protect privacy and security concerns on a case-by-case basis by blocking information from electronic public access. This option is based on the assumption that sensitive information should be kept out of the file in the event that the information doesn’t assist in understanding the outcomes of the case.

A covered entity can’t deny access to PHI due to the fact that they or their business associates keep the information requested by an individual (e.g. the information is held by a record-storage company offsite). This ground of denial is limited to situations where an individual can show that the management of the business associate of the PHI will cause significant harm or injury.

Final Health professionals who are licensed may deny access PII when they decide in the exercise their professional judgment that granting access to PII of a specific person is likely to put that person’s physical or life security in danger. This exception should be narrowly defined to protect the autonomy of individuals’ interests and their right under the Privacy Rule to make informed decisions regarding their health care.