Older US District Court Records Are Not Being Destroyed; New Access Procedures for Court Records

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

Recently, there have been newspaper articles stating the US District Courts were destroying older court records--many of which had genealogical interest. A blog posting by the (USA) National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) states that is not true and what is actually happening is the result of a multi-year, nationwide effort by National Archives staff to develop some objective criteria by which records are identified for permanent retention. In the past, court cases that did not go to trial were destroyed unless considered "historically significant". Under the new program the non-trial cases are kept for 15 years unless determined to have
historical significance. All cases that went to trial are permanently retained. http://blogs.archives.gov/records-express/?p=1290

NARA is now providing access to court records exclusively by online ordering or by mail/fax/e-mail. NARA will no longer provide on-site court case review services to the public at its Federal Records Centers. This change applies to all closed bankruptcy, civil, criminal, and court of appeals case files that remain in the legal custody of the courts but are physically stored at NARA's Federal Records Centers. Some centers have already changed to on-line only and remainder change on October 1, 2011. To read more about where and how to access these records go to: http://tinyurl.com/3wjysbl
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Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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