Filing Procedures for Highly Sensitive Documents

Widespread cybersecurity breaches of both private sector and government computer systems have prompted the federal courts to add new security procedures to protect Highly Sensitive Documents (“HSDs”) that must, for their protection, be stored outside the Court's electronic filing (CM/ECF) system.  

Definition:  A Highly Sensitive Document (HSD) is a document or other material that contains sensitive, but unclassified, information that warrants exceptional handling and storage procedures to prevent significant consequences that could result if such information were obtained or disclosed in an unauthorized manner.  Although frequently related to law enforcement materials, especially sensitive information in a civil case could also qualify for HSD treatment. 

In order to provide appropriate safeguards for HSDs, they must be filed in paper and NOT under seal through the Court’s electronic case filing system (CM/ECF). 

  • Examples of HDSs:  Examples include ex parte sealed filings relating to: national security investigations, cyber investigations, and especially sensitive public corruption investigations; and documents containing a highly exploitable trade secret, financial information, or computer source code belonging to a private entity, the disclosure of which could have significant national or international repercussions.
  • Exclusions:  Most material currently filed under seal do not meet the definition of an HSD and do not merit the heightened protections afforded HSDs.  The form or nature of the document, by itself, does not determine whether HSD treatment is warranted.  Instead, the focus is on the severity of the consequences for the parties or the public should the document be accessed without authorization.  Most presentence reports, pretrial release reports, pleadings related to cooperation in criminal cases, social security records, administrative immigration records, applications for search warrants, interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications under 18 U.S.C. § 2518, and applications for pen registers, trap and trace devices would NOT meet the HSD definition.
  • Types:  HSDs vary in their physical form and characteristics.  They may be paper, electronic, audiovisual, microform, or other media.  The term "document" includes all recorded information, regardless of its physical form or characteristics.  

For detailed HSD filing instructions, please see Local Bankruptcy Rule 5005-1 and Appendix H to the Local Bankruptcy Rules (available on this website).  Additionally, if you need to file an HSD please contact the Clerk’s Office at (410) 962-2688 or (301) 344-8018 for further instructions and coordination.