Introduction and Glossary
Planning and Development Department
Trial Court Record Retention Schedule was originally published
in March 1982 and updated in September 1991. While the former
addressed only the retention of administrative records, the latter
added retention requirements for case papers, testimony, and trial
exhibits. Certain changes and refinements to records retention
requirements have been incorporated into this revision of the
Schedule. These changes, together with formal instructions for
transferring and retrieving records to/from the records storage
centers, should further streamline records management practices
throughout the Trial Court. Procedural steps remain the same for
retaining, sampling, and destroying cases.
If an administrative record generated by your court is not listed
in the Schedule, then the retention period should be the same
as for a listed record that performs the same or similar function.
Different case types may have varying restrictions and retention
periods. Attempting to identify restrictions "after the fact"
has proved to be an impediment to destruction of case papers.
It is suggested that courts develop systems or methods to identify
or "tag" restricted cases while the case is still active, either
at the time of origination or at the time of final disposition,
depending on the restriction and ease of method.
The Trial Court Records Management Coordinator, Administrative
Office of the Trial Court, Planning and Development Department,
One Center Plaza, Boston, MA 02108 (617) 742-8383 (x344) can provide
additional information concerning this Schedule and other aspects
of the Trial Court's records management program.
Audit - Examination
of a court's records or accounts by the Office of the State Auditor
Trial Court Internal Auditors. The audit period stated refers to
the time period after
of the audit. An audit is considered "cleared" when questions raised
by the audit have been reviewed and resolved.
Extended Record - Narrative
history of a case compiled by the Clerk that includes the court
name, year and term, the names of justices sitting for the term,
names of plaintiffs and defendants, type of action (criminal or
civil), damages sought and summaries of the cases.
Judicial Archives - Managed
by the Supreme Judicial Court and located at the State Archives
in Boston, it preserves court records of historical significance.
Legal Custodian - Person empowered
by statute with the care and custody of records, books, papers,
filed or deposited in their respective offices: Clerk-Magistrates
(G. L. c. 221, s. 2); Registers of Probate (G. L. c. 217, s. 15);
Land Court Recorder (G. L. c. 185, s. 7); Probation Officers (G.
L. c. 276, s. 85); Jury Commissioner (G. L. c. 234A, s. 72). Only
the legal custodian may provide certified copies of original records.
Microforms - Generic term
for media containing microimages of information (e.g. roll microfilm,
microfiche, aperture cards, etc.).
Oversample - Any file over
a certain thickness specified in the Schedule which is retained
permanently in addition to the designated statistical sample. Such
files are presumed important due to their large volume.
Record - Information in any
format that documents an action or chronicles official duties or
obligations (e.g. forms, papers, books, photographs, index cards,
microforms, drawings, audiotapes, videotapes, etc.).
Record Series - Term used
interchangeably with Record Type (e.g. civil docket books, criminal
docket books, civil file papers, criminal file papers, etc.).
Record Storage Centers -Administrative
Office of the Trial Court - operated sites in East Brookfield, Newburyport,
and Worcester where non-current records are stored before they are
transferred to the Judicial Archives or destroyed. Records may be
retrieved by the legal custodian or reviewed on site.
Retention Period - Life span
of a record or the minimum time the record must be kept. Clerks
and judges are encouraged to retain case papers of local significance,
whether or not the papers must be retained under Rule 1:11.
Sample - Portion of a record
series that is retained permanently as a representative cross section
of that series. Records series that are eligible for sampling and
the particular cases that comprise the sample are specified in the
Record Retention Schedule.