United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
CARPENTERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL OF GREATER ST. LOUIS and VICINITY, et al., Plaintiffs,
NEIER SERVICES COMPANY, INC., d/b/a PRO SERVICES, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CHARLES A. SHAW, District Judge.
This closed matter was brought under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185 ("LMRA"), and Sections 502(g)(2) and 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(g)(2) and 1145. It is currently before the Court on plaintiffs' Amended Motion For a Creditor's Bill in Equity and to Pierce the Corporate Veil. Plaintiffs are a labor organization, several ERISA employee benefit plans, and the trustees and fiduciaries of those plans. Plaintiffs sued defendant Neier Services Company, Inc. ("NSC") for unpaid contributions to the plans required under a collective bargaining agreement and obtained a judgment against it. Plaintiffs now seek to collect the judgment from NSC's alleged alter ego, Pro Services Contractors, Inc. NSC opposes the motion and it is fully briefed. For the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion will be denied.
I. The Parties' Violations of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2(a) and Local Rule 2.17
As a threshold matter, the Court must address the parties' actions in filing exhibits to their memoranda that contain personal data identifiers. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2(a) provides:
(a) Redacted Filings. Unless the court orders otherwise, in an electronic or paper filing with the court that contains an individual's social-security number, taxpayer-identification number, or birth date, the name of an individual known to be a minor, or a financial-account number, a party or nonparty making the filing must include only:
(1) the last four digits of the social-security number and taxpayer-identification number;
(2) the year of the individual's birth;
(3) the minor's initials; and
(4) the last four digits of the financial-account number.
Rule 5.2(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. The Rule was adopted to comply with the E-Government Act of 2002, Public Law 107-347. See Rule 5.2 advisory committee's note. This Court's Local Rule 2.17(A) similarly requires redaction of personal data identifiers and also states that home addresses of nonparties should not appear in any filing, but if a home address must be included, only the city and state may be listed. E.D. Mo. L.R. 2.17(A)(5).
Plaintiffs blatantly violated these rules by filing numerous exhibits that contain social security and taxpayer identification numbers, complete financial account numbers, and full home addresses of non-parties to this action. (See various exhibits to Docs. 20, 26, 27.) Defendant violated Local Rule 2.17(A)(5) by filing exhibits that include full home addresses of non-parties to this action. (See various exhibits to Doc. 35.)
Upon discovering the extent of the disclosure violations in the record, the Court ordered the Clerk to restrict access to the improperly filed exhibits to protect the privacy of the individuals and entities whose personal data identifiers are listed therein. However, "The clerk is not required to review documents filed with the court for compliance with this rule. The responsibility to redact filings rests with counsel and the party or non-party making the filing." Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2 advisory committee's note. As another judge in this Circuit has observed, the consequences of violating the Rule are serious and, as a result, violations can warrant the imposition of sanctions:
"Parties must remember that any personal information not otherwise protected by sealing or redaction will be made available over the internet." Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2 advisory committee's note. Every federal district has now embraced electronic filing. The days of attorneys being able to ignore the computer and shift blame to support staff in the event of an error are gone. The consequences are simply too serious. To the extent there are attorneys practicing in federal court who are under the impression that someone in the Clerk's office will comb their filings for errors and call them with a heads-up, the Court delivers this message: It is the responsibility of counsel to ensure that personal identifiers are properly redacted. The Court does not have the resources to review and correct filings. The days of paper filings-with accessibility to files limited not by law but by the practical challenges of driving downtown, paying for parking, checking out the file, and paying the friendly clerk of court to make copies-are gone. Attorneys who are slow to change run the very real risk of sanctions.
Allstate Ins. Co. v. Linea Latina De Accidentes, Inc., 2010 WL 5014386, at *2-3 (D. Minn. Nov. 24, 2010) (imposing sanctions where plaintiffs took no opportunity to redact birth dates, minors' names, financial account numbers, and at least one social security number for "months after they had received notice of violations of Rule 5.2(a)"; requiring attorney to pay monetary sanction of $300 and pay for credit monitoring for the affected individuals).
The Court is particularly troubled by plaintiffs' disregard of their obligations under Rule 5.2(a) and Local Rule 2.17(A), as plaintiffs are frequent litigants who have filed over 200 similar cases in this Court. Plaintiffs' attorney Greg A. Campbell has appeared in over 1200 cases here. While some of these cases and appearances pre-date the E-Government Act of 2002, many do not. The potential consequences arising from the disclosure of personal data identifiers are very serious and are too well known to require discussion here. In the future, plaintiffs and their counsel must be vigilant to avoid disclosing personal data identifiers, and must redact such information or file any documents that contain personal data identifiers under seal, in accordance with this Court's procedures. See Section VI.B., Administrative Procedures for Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF).
Mr. Campbell will be ordered to provide a copy of Rule 5.2 and Local Rule 2.17 to each attorney, legal assistant or other person at his law firm who engages in electronic filing or directs others to, and instruct them to read the Rules. Any future disclosures of personal data identifiers by plaintiffs or their counsel may result in the imposition of ...