It has been almost four years since the Washington Supreme Court issued its decision in Hundtofte v. Encarnacion. This decision was meant to give guidance to courts on standards to use to decide whether to seal court records. As I wrote several years back, the Court's decision did the opposite. Unfortunately, four years later, nothing has changed.
At the same time the Court addressed Hundtofte v. Encarnacion, courts also looked at changing the court rule addressing sealing court records. The rule is called “General Rule” (GR) 15. In State v. Waldon, 148 Wn. App. 952 (2009), a case argued by Robertson Law attorney Ryan Robertson, the Court ruled that GR 15 could not be used as legal authority to seal court records. Curiously, judges around the State wanted to change the rule to make it legal authority, despite what the Court in Waldon said. Four years later, GR 15 has not been changed.
In essence, it's four years later and the legal standards for sealing court records are still uncertain. As a result, it is difficult to advise clients whether they would be successful in sealing their records. It is still true that you must establish "substantial and imminent" harm as a foundation for convincing any judge to seal records. And while Robertson Law has had success over the years in sealing court records, there is no consistent trend showing whether courts will be more receptive to sealing motions in the years to come.
Robertson Law is happy to speak with you about your concerns with public accessibility to your sensitive court records. Please feel free to call our office.