The cases filed in the Probate and Family Court, and the documents they contain, are open to public inspection. The court, however, has the authority to impound a file, or selected documents in it, pursuant to the Massachusetts Trial Court Rule VIII, Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure.
The Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure (URIP) govern impoundment of otherwise public case records that are filed in civil and criminal proceedings in each Department of the Trial Court. Case records are presumed to be open to the public, unless they are impounded or sealed as a matter of law, or impounded by a court order.
Trial Court Rule I.
When a file, or a portion of it, is impounded, the impounded documents are kept separate from the open file and are unavailable for public inspection. The only individuals who can view impounded documents are the court, clerk, authorized court personnel, attorneys of record and the parties to the case, unless otherwise ordered.
In order to impound a file, the court must find that good cause exists.
In determining good cause, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to, (i) the nature of the parties and the controversy, (ii) the type of information and the privacy interests involved, (iii) the extent of community interest, (iv) constitutional rights, and (v) the reason(s) for the request. Agreement of all parties, interested nonparties, or other persons in favor of impoundment shall not, in itself, be sufficient to constitute good cause.
Trial Court Rule 7.
Orders of impoundment are not common. When they are issued, they are narrowly tailored, encompassing only those documents for which good cause to impound has been demonstrated.