The article, Making Room-Saving History, summarizes work being done by the Federal Courts with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to reduce the massive accumulation of records that "cost the Judiciary over $6.2 million last year".
The article notes:
""Records had accumulated for decades and had become an unmanageable mass," said Judge Steven Merryday (M.D. Fla.), then chair of the Records Subcommittee, part of the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM). "With the potential of rising storage costs, we were facing catastrophic budget consequences." Merryday's subcommittee began by looking for ways to preserve what needed to be kept and what could be disposed. They sought the advice of the head of the National Archives and court representatives. The subcommittee went over, code by code, what would be found in a file, and agreed on what should be preserved. Then they made their recommendations to the full CACM Committee and then to the Judicial Conference."
The article further notes:
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, 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.