By Jedidiah McKeehan

“Redact” or “redacting” are legal terms you may have heard, or you may have heard of them in some CIA or other politically centered movie.  But what do these terms actually mean?

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “redact” as, “to obscure or remove (text) from a document prior to publication or release.”

So when would you have seen something that has been redacted?  The best chance an ordinary person would have of seeing a redacted document is when they are watching a movie and someone is viewing the file of a secret agent assassin.  A character in the movie is flipping through a file and all they see is page after page of lines where ninety-five percent of the content on the pages has been blacked out with a sharpie.  I am sure they learned a lot about the secret agent, right?

In the mundane, day to day legal world, there are not many documents that are important enough that they require redaction.  Most cases that are filed are public record, and the filings in the cases are open for anyone and everyone to view.

If someone requests juvenile court files, and is granted access to view them, the names and information related to the minor children will likely be redacted.  Likewise, if information is provided to someone regarding a victim of domestic violence, the contact information and address for the domestic violence victim will likely be redacted.

Honestly, redaction just does not happen that much in your regular, run of the mill, state case.  You may have a confidential informant’s name withheld from being provided on a criminal case, but typically that name has not been written down anywhere, so there is no need to redact it from any documents.

While redaction may look pretty cool in the thriller movie you are watching when someone is digging in to who someone is who is going on a killing spree, it is not encountered much in the legal world (at least not in this lowly, lawyer’s practice).

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.