Supreme Court ponders electronic archiving lawsuit

Supreme Court ponders electronic archiving lawsuit

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

FEB. 10—The Supreme Court could decide by Feb. 18 whether to hear a case concerning agencies' handling of electronic records and whether they can delete electronic records as long as they have made copies in some format.

Public Citizen, a Washington public interest group, filed a petition in November asking the high court to reverse a lower-court ruling that lets agencies continue to use the National Archives and Records Administration's rule, General Records Schedule-20. Public Citizen has characterized that rule as tantamount to letting agencies print and delete important electronic records.

The Justice Department's Office of the Solicitor General last week filed a curtly worded, 26-page response to Public Citizen's complaint, arguing that Public Citizen has shown a 'persistent misunderstanding of what GRS-20 does.'

'GRS-20 does not authorize the deletion of records from the agency's electronic or other record-keeping systems. Nor does it address the separate question of what kind of record-keeping system agencies should have,' the Justice response states.

GRS-20 simply lets agencies delete records from their existing systems once those records have been moved to 'an agency record-keeping system that preserves each record's content, structure and context,' the brief states.

GRS-20 has been at the heart of a controversy since 1996, when Public Citizen first filed its lawsuit.

NARA late last year issued a guidance urging agencies to continue making plans for handling electronic records, although it did not set a deadline. In the Dec. 28 bulletin, archivist John W. Carlin said NARA is in the midst of a 'comprehensive review of the policies and processes for the scheduling and appraising of federal records.'

A copy of the NARA bulletin is available at www.nara.gov/records/policy/b2000-02.html.


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