Privacy Law

Federal judge questions how redacted document got unredacted; CourtListener says there is no mystery

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has asked lawyers to investigate and report back to him on how a redacted detail in a lawsuit was published on

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss ordered the probe after the website published a court order in a suit against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, reports. The order included a redacted detail: the name of the plaintiff, a credit-repair company called Prime Marketing Holdings.

Moss acknowledged that the court could be to blame. And that appears to be the case, according to Michael Lissner, executive director of Free Law Project, which created the CourtListener database of federal and state court opinions.

Lissner told the National Law Journal that the federal court briefly posted a version of the order in which the company name was still available underneath black boxes. “In other words, if you did ‘select all’ and then ‘copy,’ you could get everything on the page, including the text that was supposed to be redacted,” Lissner said.

When CourtListener detected a new version of the order, it deleted the old one and replaced it with the new one. The plaintiff’s name is redacted in the new version.

Even if Prime Marketing’s name had remained redacted, its problem with the CFPB is no longer secret. The CFPB claimed in a federal suit filed Sept. 23 that the company charges illegal advance fees and makes misleading claims about its ability to repair credit files, according to this press release.

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