The Historical Society of the United States Courts in the Eighth
Preserving Judicial History with Judges' Papers
Collections of Eighth Circuit Judges' Papers
A Guide to the Preservation of Federal Judges' Papers, 3rd ed. (available to federal judiciary staff only)
Judges' Electronic Chambers Papers (available to federal judiciary staff only)
Preservation of Judges' Papers: Quick Guide for Chambers
A Guide to the Preservation of Federal Judges' Papers, 2nd ed. (superseded edition available to public)
What Are Judges' Papers?
Judges' papers consist of the print and electronic materials generated by a judge in the course of personal life, in work on other professional activities, and during the execution of office. These are apart from the documents comprising the official court record, which are filed with the clerks' offices, now through CM/ECF, and eventually transferred to the National Archives according to judiciary-wide retention and archival schedules.
Materials that comprise judges' papers include print and electronic:
Among the most valuable of a judge's papers are the chambers papers, which are the case-related materials that complement the official record of the court.
Materials that comprise chambers papers include the print and electronic:
Importance of Judges' Papers
Judges papers are an invaluable primary source of information on judicial biography, court history, and legal history. They provide unique and otherwise unavailable insight into the working process and deliberations of the judge, the judicial process, the history of the court, and the life of the judge. Judges' papers preserved for history are a veritable gold mine for legal scholars, biographers, and the general public.
Private Property of the Judge
Judges' papers, including the chambers papers, are the personal property of the judge, so unless a judge (or the surviving family) donates them to an archival repository, they could be lost to historians forever.
Preserving Privacy and Confidentiality
In the deed of gift transferring the papers to an archival repository, the judge may choose to impose restrictions of any kind on the entire collection or on portions of the collection. For example, access may be restricted for a specified number of years, until the judge is deceased, until a certain amount of time following death, or even until any judges who served with the author of the collection (or worked on a specific case) are deceased. Of most importance is that the papers be preserved in an archival institution and opened when acceptable to the donor.
Managing in Chambers
Donations of papers often occur toward the end of a judge's career, but the task becomes much easier when a filing system is established early on that includes plans for noncurrent records and for saving electronic materials. Also, a judge may donate papers at any time during his or her career to an archival repository, for example papers pertaining to earlier years or recurring deposits of noncurrent records. This gradual donation by arrangement with the archives of choice can also alleviate physical and digital space limitations in chambers.
Coordinated Efforts to Encourage and Assist with Preservation of Judicial Papers
In an effort to preserve our rich federal judicial history, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts' Court Administration and Case Management Committee has launched an electronic chambers papers webpage (available to federal judiciary staff only) to provide guidance on the identification, management, and disposition of judges' chambers papers. The website in particular addresses electronic documents, the increasingly dominant means of doing business in the judiciary. It provides an overview of electronic chambers papers, information about where they may be stored, and the typical retention and deletion schedules applicable to those applications.
In addition, the Federal Judicial Center recently released a third edition of A Guide to the Preservation of Federal Judges' Papers, (available to federal judiciary staff only), which includes information on electronic chambers papers. This publication gives guidance in all areas related to judges' papers, including appendices providing an inventory of chambers papers (Appendix A), a suggested filing system (Appendix B), sample access restrictions used by federal judges (Appendix C), sample donor agreements (Appendix D), and selected inventories of judicial collections in repositories (Appendix E).
The Eighth Circuit Library, in coordination with the Eighth Circuit Historical Society, would also like to assist the federal judges of the Eighth Circuit with preserving their papers. On this webpage you will find a list of the locations of Eighth Circuit judges' papers collections. It is organized by state, city, and then holding repository to help in identifying suitable repositories for the donation of judges' papers. To facilitate research, another list is organized by judges' names. Library staff is available to the federal judges in the Eighth Circuit for consultation. Contact Eighth Circuit Archives Librarian Joan Voelker if you would like assistance with managing or donating your judge's papers.