Kentucky Court of Justice
Supreme Court issues order on court records retention
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Supreme Court of Kentucky has issued an order for certain court records to be destroyed after a set time, including some records in small claims and District Court civil cases, financial records after audits are conducted, and paper records that have been scanned and stored electronically.
Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. entered an order on Jan. 30 based on the first set of recommendations from the Court Records Retention Committee, or CRRC, that he formed in August. The committee, led by Court of Appeals Judge Thomas B. Wine, is continuing its work of considering how the Kentucky court system should retain, destroy and archive court records statewide.
“I appreciate Judge Wine and the records committee for tackling the important issue of how to best maintain court records in Kentucky,” Chief Justice Minton said. “This Supreme Court order is a good first step in determining how we should protect critical records while disposing of records that are no longer vital. I’m encouraged by this progress and look forward to the committee’s most important work, which is still to come.”
As part of its mission, the CRRC will recommend a retention schedule for records that could be used for enhancing the charges of offenders and other significant records.
Under Supreme Court Order 2009-04, judgments and records affecting judgments in small claims and District Court civil cases are to be kept permanently. The rest of the records in those files are to be destroyed after five years. The order also allows paper records that are electronically scanned in District Court civil and small claims divisions to be destroyed after scanning if the manager of the Administrative Office of the Courts Division of Clerk Services provides written approval in advance. The paper records may only be destroyed after the AOC confirms that an appropriate process is in place for scanning, indexing and electronically storing the scanned documents. When the paper records are destroyed, the scanned records will be considered the official court records.
The order also calls for specific financial records in the Offices of Circuit Court Clerk to be destroyed following an audit after they have been kept for a designated number of years. For instance, bank reconciliation files, which contain canceled and voided checks, bank statements and deposit slips, are to be kept for two years, audited and then destroyed.
The records retention timelines and other criteria in the Supreme Court order are identical to those in the most recent previous Court of Justice Records Retention Schedule for the destruction of records in small claims cases, District Court civil cases and financial records. The destruction of those records has not been a point of debate between prosecutors, defense attorneys, the AOC and others about the court records retention policy.
Paper records that are scanned and stored electronically were not addressed in the previous retention schedule.
Prosecutors and others called for a change to the records retention policy in late 2006 after the AOC, following guidelines at the time, destroyed records in Jefferson County. Those who wanted change maintained that the destruction of records eliminated information necessary for enhancing the charges of offenders and other significant data. After a panel recommended changes to the policy, the AOC announced in April 2007 that the destruction of all court records would be halted statewide until the issue could be further reviewed. Judge Wine, chairman of the CRRC, also headed that panel.
Chief Justice Minton took up the records issue by forming the CRRC after he took office in June 2008. The office of chief justice has held the statutory authority to determine how court records are to be maintained since 1977. The committee’s goals are to ensure community safety by keeping records prosecutors need to effectively prosecute individuals who have committed crimes against the commonwealth, to maintain criminal records that citizens may seek to have expunged and to appropriately spend limited state funds with regard to records storage.
The committee members represent those with an interest in the preservation of court records, including judges, attorneys, circuit court clerks and personnel from the AOC. The members are Judge Wine, who chairs the committee; Jefferson County Family Court Judge Patricia Walker FitzGerald; Senior Judge Roger L. Crittenden; District Judge Brandy O. Brown, who serves Clark and Madison counties; Woodford County Circuit Court Clerk Tricia Kittinger; Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson; Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts; Damon Preston, director of the Trial Division of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy; Kevin Smalley, manager of the AOC Division of Clerk Services; Jason Cloyd, manager of the AOC Division of Records and Statistics; Brian Sudduth, supervisor of the AOC Division of Accessioning; and Barbara Teague, director of the Public Records Division of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.
The AOC in Frankfort is the operational arm of the Kentucky Court of Justice and supports the activities of more than 4,000 court system employees, including the elected offices of justices, judges and circuit court clerks.