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Ah, redaction-- where is thy sting? How to actually redact a PDF

Technology for Lawyers

Published: February 8, 2019

Paul Manafort and his lawyers are pretty LOL when it comes to technology. But on the other hand, they do put legal technology in the headlines here and there so thanks for that. Our boy has even attracted the attention of the ABA Journal, from whom this information cometh.

Previously on The Adventures of Manafort LOL, our boy was caught talking with whom he should not have because he failed to read the terms of service of his data storage company (iCloud) when it came to storing encrypted messages. Felony!

Next, Big Brain’s big brain lawyers filed some papers with federal court in which they tried to redact some sensitive info.

Fail again! Anybody with the requisite knowledge of PDF files knows how to do that. Our boy’s lawyers and whoever prepared these papers did not. What happened was that the special counsel’s office properly redacted the information, but Manafort’s counsel did not. Instead, they appeared redacted, but by cutting-and-pasting the black barred material onto another document and then highlighting the black bars, the information under them came into view.

This is basic investigative journalism, and so the info under the black bars appeared in every newspaper the next day.

What went wrong? And, more importantly, how can you avoid the same mistakes that these million-dollar lawyers keep making?

Well, as my 6-year-old granddaughter would say: “Guess what?”

Adobe Pro has a redaction button. Who would have guessed?

In the next three paragraphs, the ABA Journal says:

To find it, click “Tools,” then click “Protection,” then click “Mark for Redaction.” If you don’t see the Protection panel, choose “View,” then click “Tools,” then “Protection.” From there, you can highlight the text you want to redact. Once you’re done, click “Apply Redactions” and then click “OK.” Then save the document with the suffix “ Redacted.”

Now, check to see whether the text is still there by copying and pasting the redacted section into a new document. If your text doesn’t appear, you’re good to go. If it does, then after you e-file or share it electronically, you will have made the same mistake as Manafort’s legal team.

If this is the case, after you’ve redacted your selected text, the solution is to flatten the document. In Adobe, go to “View,” then “Show/Hide,” then “Navigation Panes,” then “Layers,” and turn the document into a single layer. Perform the copy and paste test again. You should be good to go.

If you’re confused, there are walk-throughs of this process online.

Remember: Don’t be Paul Manafort or his lawyers!