Section 1. Statement of Authority and Policy.
(a) Under N.D. Const. art. VI, § 3, the supreme court has authority to promulgate rules of procedure to be followed by all courts of this state, including rules regarding the administration of court records. The legislative assembly has encouraged this process under N.D.C.C. §§ 27-02-05.1 and 54-46-06.
(b) A goal of the North Dakota judicial system is to establish a uniform judicial records management program.
(c) The supreme court recognizes the need to provide a court records policy that specifically addresses the retention and disposition of court records. This records retention and disposal procedure is established to meet this administrative goal.
Section 2. Administrative Responsibilities.
(a) The state court administrator is the court records administrator and is responsible for developing a retention and disposition schedule of court records. The state court administrator may obtain the services of the state records administrator to develop and monitor the record disposal report identified in section 9 and to otherwise provide program services described in N.D.C.C. ch. 54-46.
(b) The clerk of district court in each county is responsible for the retention and disposition of all district court case records in accordance with the case records retention schedule.
(c) The judge of a municipal court or a clerk designated by the judge is responsible for the retention and disposition of all municipal court case records in accordance with the case records retention schedule.
(d) The administrative records custodian is responsible for the retention and disposition of all administrative records in accordance with the administrative records retention schedule. Each district and municipal court must designate an administrative records custodian to manage retention and disposition of the administrative records under the court’s jurisdiction. The state court administrator must designate one or more administrative records custodians to manage retention and disposition of administrative records of the commissions, boards, committees, and offices under the supervision of the supreme court.
Section 3. Scope of Supreme Court Rule.
(a) This rule applies to all court records under the jurisdiction of the clerks of district court, municipal judges, and to commissions, boards, committees, and offices under the supervision of the supreme court.
(b) Court records: the sum of all administrative and case records in the judicial branch.
(1) Administrative record: court records that pertain to management, supervision or administration of the court and are not part of a case record.
(2) Case record: any document, action or information that is collected, received or maintained by a clerk of court connected to a judicial proceeding. It may include an index, calendar, docket, register of actions, official record of the proceeding, order, decree, judgment or minute order. These may have been collected in a case management system that is used to track information. Case records may contain both public and confidential information. Case records do not include records that have been disposed of under court records management rules, or records to which a court has access but which are not a part of the court records as defined in this rule.
Section 4. Permanent Retention Periods.
(a) Court records assigned "permanent" retention periods must be retained indefinitely by the clerk or judge having jurisdiction over the case record or by the administrative record custodian. The permanent retention periods are subject to a review process consistent with N.D.R.Proc.R. 8.6.
(b) Subsection 4(a) does not prohibit the clerk or judge having jurisdiction over the case records assigned permanent retention periods or the administrative record custodian with responsibility over administrative records assigned permanent retention periods from depositing such record with the state archivist for preservation under section 12.
Section 5. Disposition of Court Records.
The term "disposition" means:
(a) transfer of a record to the possession of the state archivist under the procedure in section 12;
(b) if the record is confidential, destruction by a method that renders the content irretrievable, such as burning, shredding, pulverizing, sanitizing or overwriting; or
(c) if the record is not confidential, destruction by ordinary means, such as landfill, recycling or deleting.
Section 6. Case Records Disposition Record.
The clerk or judge having jurisdiction over case records must keep a record of the disposition of any case record under the case records retention schedule. This record must indicate the title of the record series, a description of the contents of the case record, the inclusive years of the records disposed, and the date and the means of disposition.
Section 7. Case Records Disposition Process.
The state court administrator will provide each clerk or judge having jurisdiction over case records with a case records retention schedule. The case records retention schedule must identify and describe each record series, provide the retention period based upon the fiscal, legal, administrative, and archival value of the records, and describe the method of destruction for each series that may be destroyed. The state court administrator shall file a copy of the case records retention schedule with the clerk of the supreme court. The case records retention schedule constitutes approval for disposition of all records that have met the timeframes established in the schedule.
Section 8. Procedures to Modify Record Retention Values.
The following procedures apply when adding, changing, or deleting a record series from the court records retention schedules.
(a) The person suggesting the changes must complete the Record Series Description, State Form Number 2042, with the exception of the legal value, fiscal value, archival value, and records control number.
(b) The completed Record Series Description must be sent to the state court administrator who must obtain the advice of the state auditor, attorney general, state archivist and state records administrator, to determine the administrative, legal, fiscal, and archival values of the records.
(c) A draft of the proposed addition, modification, or deletion of a record series must be submitted to the court services administration committee for comments.
(d) The state court administrator must issue a revision to the retention schedule if appropriate.
Section 9. Case Records Disposal Procedures.
Each clerk or judge having jurisdiction over case records must dispose of records as designated in the case records retention schedule and must complete a case records disposal report provided by the state court administrator or state records administrator. The duty to dispose of case records is subject to the availability of staff and to legislative appropriations. Each case record must be reviewed and approved for disposition by the clerk or judge having jurisdiction over the court records. Unless otherwise noted in the case records retention schedule, all non-permanent case records must be destroyed in accordance with subsections 5(b) and (c). The state court administrator, in cooperation with the information technology department, must establish procedures and standards for the efficient and effective destruction of electronic case records.
A record series must not be disposed of before the time approved in the retention schedule. If a situation warrants early disposal of a record within a record series, the clerk or judge may make a request to the state court administrator for early disposal of that record or may obtain an order from the judge of the court.
Section 10. Administrative Record Retention and Disposal Procedures.
The state court administrator will provide an administrative records retention schedule to all administrative records custodians. Each custodian must retain the records for the retention period set forth in the administrative records retention schedule and should dispose of records after the retention period has expired, subject to staff availability and legislative appropriations. Unless otherwise designated in the administrative records retention schedule, all non-permanent records must be destroyed in accordance with subsections 5(b) and (c). The state court administrator, in cooperation with the information technology department, must establish procedures and standards for the efficient and effective destruction of electronic administrative records. A record series must not be disposed of before the time approved in the administrative records retention schedule. If a situation warrants early disposal of a record within a record series, the custodian may make a request to the state court administrator for early disposal of that record.
Section 11. Extension of Retention Period.
Any person, including the court, may request an extension of the retention period of a court record by completing a form to be provided by the state court administrator’s office and submitting the form to the court with jurisdiction over the case records or to the state court administrator for a request related to administrative records. The court will forward the request to the state court administrator’s office for consideration. The request must be submitted no later than 90 days prior to the record meeting the retention deadline as set forth in the record retention schedule. The request must state the reason for the extension request, the fiscal, legal, administrative, or archival value of the records that justifies the extension, and the additional retention time requested.
Section 12. Transfer of Court Records to the State Archives.
The state court administrator will provide in the clerk of court procedures manual procedures for the transfer to the state archives of court records determined to be of archival value. The clerk of court, judge, or administrative records custodian will contact the state archivist when the records are ready for transfer. Arrangements will be made by the state archivist to take possession of the records within 60 days of notice to the state archivist. The state archivist may, upon request, complete a certification for archival transfer and send it to the clerk or judge after all records have been transferred.
Section 13. Microfilming Records.
Records microfilmed under this section must be maintained in accordance with the state standards for microfilming North Dakota public records developed by the information services division. A copy of the standards must be included in the North Dakota clerk of court manual.
Rule 19 was adopted effective January 1, 1995; amended effective November 1, 1998; Schedule amended effective August 1, 2001, to reflect the name change of the State Bar Board to the State Board of Law Examiners; Schedule amended effective February 1, 2014, to extend the length of retention for certain records, Rule and Case Records Retention Schedule amended effective July 1, 2019; Case Records Retention Schedule amended effective March 1, 2021; Rule amended effective August 11, 2021.