The State Supreme Court decided to review the Court of Appeals ruling in Encarnacion v. Hundtofte, 169 Wn. App. 498 (2012). The decision in Encarnacion substantially restricts the ability of judges to seal or redact court files to protect privacy rights of individuals who must pass background checks to find a job or lease an apartment.
The trial judge in Encarnacion redacted court records after applying all constitutional and statutory requirements, yet the Court of Appeals held the judge abused his discretion. According to the Court of Appeals, a petitioner must demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” beyond showing actual harm to employment or housing. Hopefully, the Supreme Court's decision to review Encarnacion shows the Court is interested in restoring judicial discretion to seal or redact court files when real harm is shown to important interests like employment and housing, considering the fact that almost every job and every lease application requires consent to a background check.