The federal courts are destroying millions of judicial case records that have been stored in the Federal Records Centers of the National Archives for decades, all in an effort to save money.
The plan is to destroy all records on cases that did not go to trial that were filed between 1970 and 1995. For other records, the federal judiciary has reduced the current record retention time from 25 to 15 years in an effort to cut costs. All cases that went to trial or were filed before 1970 will be kept.
When a federal case is filed, it is held in the U.S. District Court of record for a period of time, but is ultimately transferred to one of the Federal Records Centers in 17 cities around the country. The National Archives charges the courts a storage fee for holding these documents; last year the fee was over $6.2 million.
The new retention plan will help save $7.7 million over the next 10 years.
However, the decision to destroy 79,000 boxes filled with civil cases, 43,000 boxes of criminal cases and over 500,000 bankruptcy records is cause for concern among legal historians and advocates for public access to information.
Source: The Center for Public Integrity