Principles of Judicial Records Management Prepared and Presented by: Gladstone Hlalakuhle
Principles Good management of records benefits in several ways: A) Good records management makes record keeping and retrieval easier and more efficient. B) It helps to ensure compliance with legislation. C) It protects the interests and rights of the public.
Documents which are confidential in whole or in part, or which include words or phrases which should not be disclosed to the public, shall be filed and classified in accordance with the procedure described in the relevant Article herein. These documents shall remain a part of the relevant case file, but they shall be placed in sealed envelope or distinct folder that is inaccessible to the public.
A certified version shall replace the original documents in the public case file The practical mechanisms relating to the establishment of confidential folders shall be laid down by the Registrar in the Instructions for the Court Management Section.
Records Life Cycle A record’s life begins with its creation and ends with its disposition. In between it may be referred to, revised, re-filed, and occasionally re-organised. It is generally true, that the need to refer to files declines sharply as their age increases. As records reach the end of their active lives, they are disposed of in some manner:
A) They are destroyed. B) Transferred to inactive storage C) Transferred to the Archives.
Category of Records Current Records: Used regularly and frequently in day to day activities. Semi-Current Records: Not in use as frequently as the current records, but are needed for legal or operational reasons to be retained. Required for compliance with Procedural/Statutory /financial requirements.
All other records: Records no longer required for the work of the Judiciary – destroyed or, if identified as having a long- term historical, legal, cultural or educational significance, archived.
Access to Records All public records shall be open for inspection by any person, except as otherwise provided by the Act, and suitable facilities shall be made available by each public agency for this purpose. No person shall remove original copies of public records from the office of any public agency without the written permission of the custodian of the Record.
If the person to whom the request is directed is not the custodian of the public record requested, such person shall notify the requester and shall furnish the name and location of the custodian of the public record, if known to that person. Each request for access to a public record shall be acted upon as soon as possible, but not later than the end of the third business day following the date that the request is received.
If access to the public record is not granted immediately, the custodian shall give a detailed explanation of the cause for further delays and the place and earliest time and date that the record will be available for inspection.
If the request for access is denied, the custodian shall provide, upon request, a written statement of the grounds for denial. Such statement shall cite the specific provision of law under which such access is denied and shall be furnished to the requester not later than the end of the third business day following the date that the request for the statement is received.
The custodian may refuse to provide access to a public record, or to permit inspecting, if a request places unreasonable burden in producing public records or if the custodian has reason to believe that repeated requests are intended to disrupt other essential functions of the public agency. However refusal must be supported by evidence.
A public agency may charge and require advance payment of a fee for providing access to or furnishing copies of public records.
Policies & Procedures include: Precautions against the destruction of records without authorisation of the state records board. Storage conditions and procedures for handling records to minimise damage and deterioration. Security arrangements that prevent loss, defacement or destruction of records due to theft or vandalism.
Appraisal of Records Appraisal is the process of determining the value of records. Once this has been done, a realistic retention period can be assigned to the records. Some considerations in the appraisal are:
Frequency of use (daily, monthly, yearly) Administrative and operational need served by the record. Legal and fiscal regulations governing retention. Historical significance. Whether it is the record itself or a copy/duplicate.
Retention of State Records The term “ Retention Period” defines the minimum and maximum periods for keeping a record and the term “ Retention Schedule” defines a matrix listing classes of documents and their Retention Period. It may also include the reason for the Retention Period.
Retention Schedule Permanent A specific number of years Until superseded – refers to records that are routinely updated and where the previous version has no continuing value. Until obsolete – records that become valueless on a non-routine basis.
Normally, there is a general schedule for the retention and disposition of Government Records and the Records Management Office shall abide by this schedule except where: A) The State elects to retain records for longer periods of time than as stated in the General Schedule. B) State Regulations require longer retentions for specific records, the longer period shall prevail
C) Records need to be audited, these will be maintained until those audits are completed, regardless of the retention periods appearing in the General Schedule.
Disposition of State Records. The disposition of any State Records not included in the General Schedule shall require authorisation by the State Records Board unless that disposition involves transfer of records to the State Archives. Any agency requesting disposition authorisation shall submit the request through the State Archivist.
Copies of the General Schedule for retention and disposition of state government records, as well as other schedules approved by the State Records Board, may be obtained from the Archives Department.
Abstracts or Copies of Records Any person may make abstracts or copies of any public record to which such a person has access under the relevant Act. If copies are requested, the public agency may require a written request and advance payment of the prescribed fee.
A public agency shall not be allowed to provide copies of radio or recording tapes or discs, videos tapes or film, pictures, slides, illustrations or similar audio or visual items, unless such items or devices were shown or played to a public meeting of the governing body thereof. The public agency shall also not be allowed to provide devices which were copyrighted by a person other than the public agency.
Copies of public records shall be made while the records are in the possession, custody, and control of the custodian or a person designated by the custodian. Where practical, these copies shall be made in the place where the records are kept. If it is not possible to do so, arrangements shall be made that other facilities be used for copying, and the cost of doing so be borne by the person desiring a copy of the records.
The public agency may also establish a reasonable schedule of times for making copies at other facilities. Except as provided, or where fees for inspection or for copies of a public record are prescribed by statute, each public agency may prescribe reasonable fees for providing access to or furnishing copies of public records, subject to the following:
A)In the case of fees for copies, of records, fees shall not exceed the actual cost of furnishing copies, including the cost of staff time time required to make information available. B)In the case of fees for providing access to records maintained on computer facilities, the fees shall include only the cost of any computer services, including staff time required.
C) Fees for access to or copies of public records of public agencies within the legislative branch of the state government shall be established in accordance with the relevant Act and amendments thereto. D) Fees for access to or copies of public records within the judicial branch of the state government shall be established in accordance with rules of the Supreme Court.
E) Fees for access to or copies of public records of a public agency within the Executive Branch of State / Government shall be established by the agency head. Any person requesting the records may appeal the reasonableness of the fees to access the records to the Secretary of Administration whose decision shall be final.
Except otherwise authorised pursuant to the Act and amendments thereto, each public agency shall remit all moneys to, received by or for it from fees charged pursuant to this Act to the State Treasurer. Unless otherwise, specifically provided by law, the State Treasurer shall deposit the entire amount thereof in the State Treasury and credit the same to the State General Fund or an appropriate fee fund as determined by the agency head.