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December 2011

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Revised Schedule for Bankruptcy Records

A newly revised schedule for the archiving and disposition of bankruptcy records is being implemented.

The schedule covers non-electronic bankruptcy case files and is the end result of a joint effort by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, and historians, that began in March 2009. The Conference approved the revised schedule at its September 2011 meeting.

Under the new schedule:

  • All bankruptcy dockets and opinions are permanent files.
  • The transfer period for permanent cases is reduced from its present 25-year retention period to 15 years after the close of the case.
  • The disposition period for temporary cases and temporary adversary proceedings files is reduced from the present 20-year retention period to 15-years after the close of the case.
  • Chapter 12, Family Farmer and Fisherman cases, as well as all cases dated 1940 or earlier, will now be retained permanently.
  • Cases filed under the Bankruptcy Acts of 1800, 1841, and 1867, and cases filed under certain sub-chapters of the Bankruptcy Acts of 1898 and 1978 will remain permanent.
Court officials retain the ability to designate any case or adversary proceeding files as historic, based on the court's judicial perspective.

Court officials retain the ability to designate any case or adversary proceeding files as historic, based on the court's judicial perspective, and those cases will be retained and stored. Historically designated cases might involve a lawyer, litigant, or witness of historical importance; an issue of historical interest; a matter of national interest separate from the issues in the litigation; or have received substantial media attention at the time.

In addition, approximately 2.5 percent of all temporary cases retired by each district each year, will be randomly selected and reclassified as permanent by NARA, preserving a sample of bankruptcy cases nationwide.

The bankruptcy records schedule is the latest to be revised. In spring 2011, the Judiciary updated its records disposal schedule for civil cases. (See "Making Room, Saving History," The Third Branch, May 2011.) The implementation of the new schedules will make case files easier for the public to identify and locate.

There are an estimated 1.1 million boxes of bankruptcy cases stored at the Federal Records Centers (FRC). NARA is required to charge the Judiciary a fee for storage, and last year storage cost the Judiciary over $6.2 million. The new records schedule will allow the FRC to begin processing the records, preserving and transferring permanent cases, and disposing of temporary cases, which will save the Judiciary a minimum of $2 million annually.