Guide Trial Court record retention schedule

The 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 current version added retention requirements for case papers, testimony, and trial exhibits.

Table of Contents

Record retention introduction

The 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.

If you are seeking a Trial Court record, please go to the Office of the Clerk Magistrate or Register of Probate where your proceeding was heard, for assistance.

Record retention glossary

Audit - Examination of a court's records or accounts by the Office of the State Auditor OR the Trial Court Internal Auditors. The audit period stated refers to the time period after the clearance 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.

Part 1: Miscellaneous and Administrative Records

Fiscal Records and Forms

1. Audit Forms

Record or Form Style Retention Period
Account Balance Listing Report 1 year after audit
Affidavit of Indigency Form 3 years after audit and case disposed
Affidavit of Owner of Cash Deposited with Court as Bail 7 years after audit
Affidavit of Ownership of Lost Bail Receipt 3 years after audit
Assessment or Waiver of Monies 1 year after audit and case disposed
Authorization to Review Financial Through DOR 1 year after audit
Bail Book 3 years after audit and bail disposed
Bail Recognizance Receipt 3 years after audit and bail disposed
Bail Return Form 7 years after audit
Bail Transmittal To Superior Court 3 years after audit
Bank Account Reconciliation Form 1 year after audit
Bank Acknowledgment
(also known as bank receipt)
1 year after audit
Bank Balance Listing Report (Daily) 1 year after audit
Bank Balance Listing Report (Monthly) 3 years after audit
Bank Letter 1 year after audit
Bank Outstanding Check Report 3 years after audit
Canceled Check Statement from Bank 3 years after audit
Cassette or CD Order Form 1 year after audit
Central Bank Statement (Disbursement Bank) 1 year after audit
Check Destruction Form 1 year after audit
Check Stock Inventory Form 1 year after audit
Community Service Certificate 3 years after audit
Court Issued Checks (Voided) 1 year after audit
Credit Card Merchant Statement - Vantiv 1 year after audit
Credit Card Reports 1 year after audit
Credit Card Verification Form 1 year after audit
Daily Cash Sheet 1 year after audit
Definition of Indigency Form 1 year after audit
Deposit Detail (EFILE ACT-0010) 1 year after audit
Deposit Slips 1 year after audit
Deposit Verification Forms 1 year after audit
Dismissed Cost Report 1 year after audit
Final Receipt Listing Report 1 year after audit
Financial Activity Summary (EFILE FIN-0025) 1 year after audit
Form 8300 1 year after audit
Indigency Re-Assessment Form 1 year after audit
Internal Audit Reports Retain last 2 reports
Inventory Records Permanent
Juror-Related Bills 1 year after audit
Jury Expense Authorization Form 1 year after audit
Local Bank Statement 3 years after audit
MassCourts Order Form 1 year after audit
MassCourts Outstanding Check List 1 year after audit
Monthly Interweb Report (ePay) 1 year after audit
Notice of Assignment of Counsel Permanent, store in case file
One Write (Includes receipt register and receipts) 1 year after audit
Open Item Case Listing 1 year after audit
Open Item Summaries 1 year after audit
Outstanding Obligation Report 1 year after audit
Proof of Community Service 1 year after audit
Quarterly Meeting Report 3 year after audits
Receipt Control Book 1 year after audit
Receipt Register 1 year after audit
Report on Unaccounted for Variances, Losses, Shortages, or Thefts of Funds or Property 3 years after audit
Request for Payment Form 1 year after audit if stored in case file
Request (Internal) for Refund 1 year after audit
Restitution Order 3 years after audit and case closed, and restitution paid in full
Return or Assignment of Bail Form 7 years after audit
Returned Check Journal 1 year after audit
Returned Check Notification Form 1 year after audit
Revenue Reconciliation 1 year after audit
Revenue Refund (RF) 7 years after audit
Revenue Transmittal Sheet (RTS) 1 year after audit
Revenue Transmittal Sheet for Abandoned Property Only 1 year after audit
Revenue Transmittal Sheet for Unpaid Check Fund 1 year after audit
State Audit Reports Retain last 2 reports
State Bail Administrator Report and Backup 7 years
State Treasurer Statements 3 years after audit
Undeliverable Check Log 1 year after audit
Voluntary Assignment of Bail Form 3 years after audit

2. Budget Forms

Record or Form Style Retention Period
Federal Grant Fiscal Records 1 year after audit and grant end
Request for Budget Change 1 year after audit
Revised Financial Plan 1 year after audit
Spending Plan and Maintenance Estimate workbook 1 year after audit

3. MMARS/Accounting Forms

Record or Form Style Retention Period
Advance Refund Input Form (AR) 7 years after audit
Batch Transmittal 7 years after audit
Budgetary Control Log (BCL) 7 years after audit
Certification of Services 7 years after audit
Competitive Bid Forms and Related Documentation (Letters of solicitation and vendor bid information.) 1 year after audit
Contract Commodity Encumbrance (CT) 7 years after audit and final contract payment
Daily Report of Expenses for Prisoner Lunches 1 year after audit
Expenditure of Advance Input Form (EA) 7 years after audit
Expenditure Refund Input Form (ER) 7 years after audit
Fixed Assets Acquisition Form (FA) 3 years after audit
Fixed Assets Betterment Form (FB) 3 years after audit
Fixed Assets Disposal Form (FD) 3 years after audit
Fixed Assets Transfer Form (FT) 3 years after audit
General Accounting Encumbrance (GAE) 3 years after audit
General Accounting Expenditure (GAX) 7 years after audit
General Accounting Expenditure for Witness Expenses (GAX Witness) 7 years after audit
Interoffice Requisition 1 year after audit
Interpreter Service Sheets (DSR) 7 years after audit
Intragovernmental Encumbrance (IE) 3 years after audit
Itemization of Services 7 years after audit
NGA Report 7 years after audit
Out-of-State Travel Form (Submitted prior to out-of-state travel.) 7 years after audit
Overnight Travel Form 7 years after audit
Packing Slip 3 years after audit
Payment Request Commodity (PRC) 7 years after audit
Purchase Commodity Encumbrance (PC) 7  years after audit and final contract payment
Request for Advance Input Form (RA) 3 years after audit
Revenue Refund Input Form (RF) 7 years after audit
RTRS 3 years after audit
Travel Expense Voucher (CD 18) 1 year after audit

 

4. Payroll

Record or Form Style Retention Period
Application For Retirement Permanent
Attendance Calendars Permanent
Average Weekly Wage Computation Permanent
Batch Transmittal Form Permanent
Daily Time Sheets 3 years after audit
Disciplinary Letter Permanent
Employee Verification 7 years after audit
Form CN Permanent
Form CS Permanent
Form D Permanent
Form E Permanent
Form PREN Permanent
Form PREO Permanent
Form PREP Permanent
Form PRES Permanent
Form T Permanent
HRCMS Support 7 years after audit
HTIME LOG Permanent
Military Pay Calculation F18 Permanent
New Enrollment Permanent
Payroll Expenditure Reports 7 years after audit
Payroll Hold (PH) Permanent
Payroll Refund Receipt Voucher (CD 29A) Permanent
Payroll Refund Voucher / RTRS / DYNA Cash 7 years after audit
Payroll Warrant (CDP 4) Permanent
Pre-Authorization Request for Overtime 7 years after audit
Preliminary Payroll Permanent
Salary Request and Release Form Permanent
Time Reporting Forms Permanent
Travel Expense Voucher  7 years after audit

5. Procurement

Record or Form Style Retention Period
Request for Competitive Bid 1 year after audit
Request for Proposal 1 year after audit
Packing Slips 1 year after audit
Purchase Requisition 1 year after audit

Personnel Records and Forms

1. Appointment and Promotion Documents

Record or Form Retention Period
Application for Employment - (Form F2) Hired - Permanent
Not Hired - 7 years
Applicant Interview and Hiring Record - (F4) Hired - Permanent
Not Hired - 7 years
Appointment Documentation - (F5) Permanent
Approval Letters Permanent
Employment Eligibility Verification Form Permanent
Interview Records Hired - Permanent
Not Hired - 7 years
Job Posting Permanent
New Hire Form Permanent
Reference Checks Hired - Permanent
Not Hired - 7 years
Rejection Letters 7 years from issue date
Results of Classified Advertising - (F3) Permanent
Standard Interview Questions Hired - Permanent
Not Hired - 7 years

2. Employee Disability Documents

Record or Form Retention Period
Assault Pay Documentation Permanent
Determination of Payroll Refund and Sick Leave Charge Permanent
Employer's First Report of Injury - (Form 101) Permanent
Employer's Quarterly Report of Injuries Permanent
Insurer's Extension of 60 Day Pay Without Prejudice Period - (105) Permanent
Insurer's Notification of Denial of Compensation Permanent
Insurer's Notification of Payment - (103) Permanent
Insurer's Notification of Resumption or Modification of Weekly Compensation - (107) Permanent
Insurer's Notification of Termination or Suspension of Compensation - (106) Permanent
Internal Claim Investigation Form Permanent
Notice of Injury Report Permanent
Release of Information Permanent
Workman's Compensation Physician or Surgeon Report Permanent

 

3. Termination Documents

Record or Form Retention Period
Buy Back Forms Permanent
Employee Checkout List - (Form F10) Permanent
Exit Interview - (F11) Permanent

 

4. Unemployment Compensation Documents

Record or Form Retention Period
Appeal Documentation Permanent
Notice to Claimant of Disqualification Permanent
Request for Separation and Wage Information Permanent

 

5. Miscellaneous Personnel Documents

Record or Form Retention Period
Attendance Calendar - (Form F8) Permanent
Court Officer Weekly Report of Assignments Permanent
Department Head Comments - (F15) Permanent
Disciplinary Actions Permanent
Employee Conference Report - (F12) Permanent
Employee Profile - (F6) Permanent
Employee Request for Leave of Absence Permanent
Grievances Permanent
Personnel Transaction Form Permanent
Request for Classification Review Questionnaire -Form - (F14) Permanent
Request for New Position Questionnaire - (F13) Permanent
Tuition Remission Form Permanent

 

6. Inactive Personnel Files

Record or Form Retention Period
Personnel files of employees who have voluntarily or involuntarily left the employment of the Trial Court. Until 75th Birthday, if known, or,  60 years after date of first personnel action.

Miscellaneous Administrative Records

Record or Form Retention Period
Administrative Directives, Bulletins Retain while in effect.
Calendar (court list, daily list , daily trial list, etc.) Option of court.
Charitable Trust Report 5 years
Clerk-Magistrate Hearing Papers (not part of case file) 1 year
Correspondence - Non Case-related 3 years
Courthouse Incident Reports 7 years
Criminal Statistics Reports to Department of Correction 5 years
Docket Book Indices Permanent
Hospital Records Receipts 1 year after disposition of case
Judge's Notes or Daily Diaries Individual Judge's Discretion

Juror-Related Papers:

Juror Questionnaire
(G. L. c. 234A ss. 22 & 23)

Grand Juror Financial Questionnaire
(G. L. c. 234A s.52)

Office of Jury Commissioner Records
(G. L. c. 234A s. 72)

 

Originals (after voir dire) after final disposition of case. Counsel copies after voir dire.

1 year after discharge of Grand Jury

 

3 years

 

Marriage Petitions (without delay) Permanent
Medical Examiner Reports Permanent

 

Part 2: Case papers

Part 3: Case related papers

Trial Exhibits

Superior Court Department: Rule 14

Trial exhibits are retained for 3 years from the date of trial or hearing, unless previously delivered to the offering party or confiscated or destroyed by order of the court.
After 3 years and after 30 days notice to the offering party, the Clerk may destroy trial exhibits.

District Court Department

No rule has been promulgated. The following practice is recommended by the Administrative Office of the District Court Department. See District Court Bulletin 3-84, Item 10, November 26, 1984.Trial exhibits should be retained for 3 years from the date of trial or hearing, unless previously delivered to the offering party or confiscated or destroyed by court order. After 3 years and after 30 days notice to the offering party, the Clerk may destroy trial exhibits. Courts that lack adequate storage space may opt for a shorter retention period but may do so only with the concurrence of the Presiding Justice and Clerk-Magistrate.

Probate and Family Court Department: Supplemental Rule 26

Exhibits which are placed in the custody of the register shall be retained by him for one year after the trial or hearing at which they were used, unless sooner delivered to the parties or counsel to whom they respectively belong or by whom they were respectively presented or introduced. If in doubt as to the party or counsel entitled to delivery, the register may require an agreement of parties or counsel or order of the court, before delivery. The register may destroy or discard such exhibits, but not earlier than thirty days after notice by him to the party presenting or introducing such exhibits, requesting him to remove them, nor earlier than one year after such trial or hearing.

All Departments of the Trial Court: Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:12

The legal custodian of the records shall retain original stenographic notes for 6 years from the original recording date before they may be destroyed.

Restrictions: These notes may not be destroyed:

  • Notes that the court has ordered to be kept.
  • Notes from which a transcript has been ordered but not completed

Electronic Recordation of Testimony Superior Court Department: Standing Order 2-87 (10)

The Clerk shall retain for 6 years from the date of original recording before they may be erased or destroyed. 

Restriction: Unless the Court has ruled otherwise. 

Land Court Department: Standing Order 1-88 (10) 

The Clerk shall retain for 6 years from the date of original recording before they may be erased or destroyed.

Restrictions: These recordings may not be destroyed:

  • When the matter is pending in court
  • When the matter is subject to or the subject of any appellate review
  • Where the court has ruled otherwise

Probate and Family Court Department: Supplemental Rule 201 (4)

The Register shall retain for 3 years from the date of original recording before they may be erased or destroyed.

Restrictions: These recordings may not be destroyed:

  • The matter is pending or the subject of appellate review

District Court Department: Special Rule 211 A (4)

The Clerk shall retain for 2 1/2 years from the date of original recording where a judge has presided at:

  • Any trial, evidentiary hearing, guilty plea or admission to sufficient facts in a criminal or juvenile delinquency case
  • Any trial or evidentiary hearing of a Care and Protection matter 

Retain for 1 year from the date of original recording for all other matters. 
Restriction: When a party has moved to preserve the recording for an appeal.

Boston Municipal Court Department: Special Rule 308 A (4) 

The Clerk shall retain for 2 1/2 years from the date of original recording where a judge has presided at:

  • Any trial, evidentiary hearing, guilty plea or admission to sufficient facts in a criminal or juvenile delinquency case
  • Any trial or evidentiary hearing of a Care and Protection matter 

Retain for 1 year from the date of original recording for all other matters where a judge has presided. 
Restriction: When a party has moved to preserve the recording for an appeal.

Probation Records

Records Eligible for Destruction

  • Juvenile/adult probation case folder information provided the individual has had no court activity for 10 years. 
  • Index reference cards (4x6 blue/buff/salmon) for individuals who have appeared in court shall be destroyed.

Sampling Procedures

  • Retain permanently, a 2% random sample of terminated case folders (i.e., every 50th case folder). 
  • NO sample of index reference cards shall be maintained. 

Restriction: A default is NOT considered a terminated case.

Destruction of Records

Records shall be burned, shredded, or torn so that NO document or paper, so destroyed, can be restored.

The Trial Court Records Management Coordinator (617) 742-8383 (x344) may arrange the destruction of eligible records.

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