Justice questions basis of archiving lawsuit

Justice questions basis of archiving lawsuit

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

A lawsuit contesting the government's policy on preserving electronic records is based on incorrect assumptions about how agencies handle records, the Justice Department argued in a brief filed this month with the Supreme Court.

The Justice Office of Solicitor General filed the brief on behalf of the National Archives and Records Administration. NARA has been embroiled in a four-year legal battle over General Records Schedule 20, the rule that lets agencies delete electronic records provided they make copies in some format.

Public Citizen, a Washington public-interest group, has been arguing that GRS-20 is tantamount to letting agencies print and delete electronic records, and that critical data available in the electronic format is lost in printed versions.

In its 26-page filing, the government said Public Citizen has shown a 'persistent misunderstanding' of GRS-20.

No authorization

'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 brief said.

All GRS-20 does is let 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 said.

Public Citizen has argued that electronic documents offer advantages that paper records do not. For instance, electronic records are more easily indexed, searched and distributed than are paper documents.

The Supreme Court was expected to decide as early as last week whether to accept the case.

GRS-20 has been at the heart of the battle over electronic records since 1996.

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