Magazine article Information Management

Louisville Destroys Court Documents

Magazine article Information Management

Louisville Destroys Court Documents

Article excerpt

It sounds like a scene from a Hollywood thriller: a group of burly strangers enter the Louisville, Kentucky, courthouse and quickly and quietly haul away all microfilm and microfiche records from 2001 and older and subsequently destroy them.

Unfortunately for Louisville, the above scenario is fact, not fiction. It occurred in November 2006, and officials are still grappling with what to do about it.

According to local media sources, thousands of court records six years and older--paper, microfilm, microfiche, and electronic--that are used to help ensure that repeat offenders stay in jail were obliterated.

Prosecutors said the destruction of Jefferson District Court misdemeanor records endangers the public because repeat offenders' prior records were destroyed. That means jurors cannot be made aware of a defendant's criminal past when it comes time to sentence him or her during a trial.

But in addition to helping criminals avoid additional jail time, the document destruction is expected to negatively affect the innocent. For example, day-care centers and nursing homes will no longer be able to check job applicants for violent misdemeanor convictions that occurred before 2001. Police will not be able to enforce a federal law that restricts people from owning or possessing firearms if they have had a domestic violence conviction on their record. And those who have been wrongly accused no longer have proof that a charge against them was false or dismissed.

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According to media sources, the courts' administrative office routinely purged old paper court records, but this time it also destroyed backup microfilm and electronic files detailing old misdemeanor convictions.

State court officials told The Courier-Journal that the records were destroyed based on a statewide document-retention policy amended in 2005 to include electronic records. …

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