ISPLA Alert: Federal Courts Destroying Records
- ISPLA has learned of a shocking development within the US District Court
system that will eliminate the ability of professional investigators to
search federal court records created before 1995. The implications of this
new policy are far reaching and potentially devastating to the people we
The Administrative Office (AO) of the United States has announced that on
April 1, 2011, it will begin destroying archived records of federal district
court cases which were filed after 1969 and which were archived during the
period 1970 to 1995. For example, more than 25,000 cases from the Western
District of Michigan alone will be destroyed. In addition, myriad other
federal records are also slated to shredded, including records of the
Federal Maritime Commission, Department of the Interior, Department of
Justice, and the US Bankruptcy Court.
When a case filed in the district court has been closed, the file is
maintained by the District Court for a period of time, but it is ultimately
transferred to the National Archives. To reduce the cost of preserving these
records, the AO has decided to discard approximately 80% of them. The AO has
no plans to preserve these records electronically. Only the Judgments and
the docket sheets of the discarded cases will be kept.
Imagine the consequences of this proposed action. Background checks on
litigants, potential business partners and prospective employees will be
seriously hampered; critical appellate information will be erased;
The wanton destruction of an entire generation of public records is utterly
unacceptable and action must be taken to prohibit this from occurring.
Since there was no public comment period, ISPLA is preparing a response to
the National Archive and Records Administration and will represent the
profession in objecting to this poorly conceived policy.
For more information please visit
www.ispla.org/currentlegislativenews , where we have posted the news release
from the AO's office.
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