Proposed Records Retention Policy for Virginia’s District Courts
Last year, the Virginia General Assembly amended the records retention policy of General District Courts. Previously, clerks were required to retain paper copies of documents for both civil and criminal cases for ten years. The law changed last July so that General District Court clerks can destroy the paper copies after three years so long as the court maintains electronic copies. The law requires the chief judge of the respective court to authorize the change.
This year, the same change is being proposed for Juvenile & Domestic Relations Courts: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?141+sum+HB1013. The legislation appears to be sailing through the House of Delegates without opposition. The change will most directly be felt by family law practitioners who litigate in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Courts.
This clearly is a bill to promote efficiency within the judicial system. It will reduce the need for storage space and cut down on paper costs. If it becomes law, the key will be to make sure that local Bar associations advise their members of retention policy changes in particular courthouses; courthouses will need to have the technological capability to maintain e-records in an effective manner; and court clerks will need a process to ensure that records are not lost in the transition.