Tuesday, August 2, 2011

RIP: "Non-Historic," Non-Trial Temporary Federal District Court Case Files, 1970-95

This may be old news to some LHB readers, but I've just learned of the implementation by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts of a policy to dispose of "non-trial temporary case files" created from 1970 to 1995.  According to the Office's website:
This is the first time in more than 30 years that NARA has been able to dispose of any federal court case records. They've begun with paper civil case files dating back to 1970. But before they dispose of any files, courts have the ability to designate "non-trial temporary case" files between 1970 and 1995 as historic. These files will be retained and stored. All cases filed at any time that proceeded to trial, and all cases filed before 1970 are automatically designated permanent and will not be destroyed. The remaining cases will be indexed and become easier to access.

What is considered historically significant? The CACM Committee [Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management], working with NARA, federal judges, historians, and academics, proposes that certain case records be designated permanent. Cases of historic significance would involve particular issues such as state reapportionment cases, civil rights voting cases, treason, national security, family farm and historic bankruptcy cases, and death penalty habeas corpus cases. Judges and clerks of court also are asked to designate cases that:

* Involved a lawyer, litigant, or witness of historical interest or importance;
* Involved an issue of historical interest;
* Involved a matter of national interest separate from the issues in the litigation; or
* Received substantial media attention at the time.

To date, 13 district courts and 23 bankruptcy courts have completed their identification of historic case files.
See also page 7 of the Administrative Office's Annual Report for 2010.