Federal officials in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on Monday promised a thorough review of all redacted court filings after the discovery of documents that hadn't been properly scrubbed of potentially sensitive information.
Access to all redacted filings will be restricted until they have been examined, officials said.
"Effective immediately, the Court has restricted access to all documents (dating from 2015-present) where the docket text indicates a redacted document was filed," read an announcement sent out Monday evening. "Effective immediately, the Court will mark newly filed and improperly redacted documents as filed in error and request they be re-filed using the appropriate redaction methods."
It was not immediately clear how many documents were believed to be compromised.
Court staff will review every filing that was intended to be redacted for compliance. They will be publicly available again only after that happens, according to the announcement.
Until recently, the announcement said, some attorneys and others had been improperly redacting court filings, using Microsoft Word to draw "a solid rectangular box to cover up the redacted material."
"Although this covers up the information, it does not remove the information to be redacted," the announcement said.
The oversight was uncovered after a journalist "was able to remove the solid box and uncover the redacted information," the announcement said.
Anyone filing with the court is encouraged to use tools like Adobe Acrobat Pro 2017 that is designed to black out sensitive information, with court officials saying the software would be incorporated into future trainings.
Marshall Tanick, a veteran Twin Cities constitutional and employment law attorney, said that it's not unheard of for court officials to redact information that was mistakenly filed, but that such scenarios happen "infrequently."
"It usually is confined to those occasions in which there is some serious factual mistake, the inclusion of confidential data, or in rare instances if the litigants have reached some type of agreement or resolution of a dispute after legal papers have already been filed," he said, adding that he hadn't seen Monday's announcement.
The court was closed Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday.