My office has boxes and boxes and boxes of old files piled up in various corners, on top of filings cabinets, in closets, etc.
I would like to start shredding these old files but my office has never had a policy on how to dispose of records.
Does anyone have a policy they would be willing to share? I'm thinking that it would be nice to get rid of all cases that were disposed of at least 10 years ago.
As someone who needs to review old files on a regular basis, I just have to say that you never know when you will need those files to respond to an innocence, Brady, or other type of claim.
The term "old files" is so broad. A DA's office collects many different types of records. Some need to be maintained longer than others. As a government agency, there are certain legal requirements regarding records management. You should go here to learn more about that: Texas State Library Link
Even if you destroy the original records, consider scanning the material and storing it electronically. Those records can be useful, even decades later, in protecting against claims of prosecutor misconduct, innocence or ineffective assistance. In addition, you never know when it might be useful in a punishment hearing to have an old pen packet.
I inherited files dating back to the 1970s. We began reviewing the Texas Local Government Records Act and found that the Texas State Library and Archives Commission oversees the management of such. Moreover, the unauthorized destruction of records can have criminal consequences.
Each elected official is a Records Management Official and is charged with the responsibility for compliance with the Records Act, including the creation of a Records Control Schedule. The RMO also is responsible for documenting which records are destroyed.
I can discuss the process in great detail if you're interested, but... in a nutshell, we used our county's Record Management Fund (which is part of the filing fees in each case), to hire a consultant to review all of our files and past policies pertaining to record management, and to implement a new plan. The consultant then identified all of the files to be destroyed and documented their disposition (shredding). In all, we disposed of over 40,000 lbs. of documents.
We used Adele Carboni Consulting: Adelecarboni@aol.com. She did a great job and was very reasonable.
I have filed a management plan with the state library also. Juvie files are shredded the year after the juvenile-respondent turned 21; adult criminals are shredded a set number of years after the judgment...I think it's 5...unless a warrant is out.
This has saved me from a bunch of open records requests - the state library approved my shredding and I did it! Obviously, the court records on all this are still available from the clerk. The law enforcement agency may or may not still have their reports, so the only information being destroyed that may not be available elsewhere are my notes.
Lisa L. Peterson
Nolan County Attorney
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