Public asked to weigh in on destruction of court records

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Court records have been piling up in Des Moines. The Iowa Supreme Court filed a request July 20, which said, “appellate court records are being stored throughout the Judicial Branch Building and space is running short.” The court also explained the state archivist has not been able to store appellate records for a number of years. The court is seeking public opinion regarding retention of the appellate records. A proposed rule change would allow the clerk of the supreme court to destroy original copies of supreme court and court of appeals records once they have been reproduced in a “reasonably permanent, legible means.”

The Iowa Supreme Court’s statement said many of the records have already been scanned to discs in a move toward electronic filing.

Steve Davis, communications director with the Iowa Judicial Branch, said the first court document to be electronically filed was in the Plymouth County Clerk of Court Office in January of 2010. The paperless court filing system was expanded to 28 additional counties in 2013, according to Davis.

“As of June 30, 2015, every county district court in the state of Iowa is accepting electronic filing for all matters,” Davis said. “The (proposed) change will not affect public access to court records.”

The court’s request also informed the public of another proposed rule change related to the recordkeeping. The second proposal would move sections of the court rules regarding the purging of case files. The relevant sections would no longer be under the heading of judicial administration, but rather court records of the judicial branch. The two specific sections that would be moved define which records are to be retained by the clerk and allows certain records to be purged 10 years after the dismissal of all charges or 10 years after the expiration of all sentences imposed or the date probation is granted.

However, the court will not take official action until the public has had the chance to voice their opinion on the matter. Organizations and individuals may submit their opinions to the court before 4:30 p.m. Sept. 18. Comments may be submitted by email to rules.comments@iowacourts.gov and must list “Court Records” in the subject line. Additionally, emailed comments must be attached in a Microsoft Word format. Hard copy comments may be mailed to Clerk of the Supreme Court, Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Any of the submitted comments may be posted on the court’s website.

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