Supreme Court rejects archiving case

Supreme Court rejects archiving case

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

MARCH 6—The Supreme Court has rejected without comment a petition to hear a lawsuit that contests the government's policy on preserving electronic records.

In today's decision, the high court denied a petition from Public Citizen, a Washington public interest group, appealing a lower-court ruling that lets agencies delete electronic records as long as they have copies in some other format. The one-sentence decision did not elaborate on the court's reasoning.

This could be the end of a four-year legal tussle over the National Archives and Records Administration's rule for dealing with electronic documents. Public Citizen has said the rule, known as General Records Schedule 20, is tantamount to letting agencies print and delete electronic records, thereby losing important information.

Archivist John W. Carlin praised the decision and said it would allow NARA to "develop practical methods for managing and preserving records in an orderly way in the electronic era and ensuring ready access to them."

NARA has already moved beyond GRS-20 in guidance issued earlier this year, he said. That guidance is available on the Web at www.nara.gov/records/policy/b2000-02.html.

The Justice Department's Office of the Solicitor General, representing NARA, argued that Public Citizen has shown a persistent misunderstanding of the rule.

"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," said the Justice brief [see GCN story at www.gcn.com/vol19_no4/news/1359-1.html].

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