'Not for publication' is not 'not for publication'


Lots of people ask Google to deindex court opinions—whether on the courts' own sites, or on services such as findlaw.com, leagle.com and the like—on the grounds that they are labeled "not for publication." ("Deindexing" means removing a page from Google's indexes so that people searching for, say, the name of a person who appears on that page will not see the page.)

But "not for publication" simply means that the opinion is not precedential, and, in some court systems, can't be cited as authority to courts. "Publication" here means publication in an official "reporter," which is to say a printed volume that is intended by the courts to collect precedents that are intended to be binding or at least authoritative.

"Not for publication" doesn't mean that the opinion is sealed or is supposed to be kept confidential by courts or others. American court proceedings, and especially court orders, are generally public and are sealed only in very rare circumstances (though, in less rare circumstances, the opinions use pseudonyms to conceal people's identities). So don't assume that, just because a case is labeled "not for publication," it will be hidden from view at the outset or that you have a right to get it hidden from view.