Basic Records and Information Management
All Department of Justice employees and contractors are responsible and accountable for creating and keeping accurate and complete records of their activities. Regardless of physical form or characteristics, if you handle documentation — enter records into a database, file a document in a folder, answer an inquiry from the public, respond to a FOIA request, or do anything else that documents your activities for the DOJ -- you are a records creator and custodian. You are responsible and accountable for the records that you create or receive.
What is a Record?
The Federal Records Act states that a federal record is documentation that:
- Is created or received in any medium by an agency of the U.S. Government pursuant to law or in the transaction of business.
- Is preserved, or appropriate for preservation, because it provides evidence of an Agency’s organization, functions, decisions, procedures and transactions. (44 U.S.C. 3301) For the statutory definition of a record visit Archives.gov.
How do I Identify the Records of my Office?
Examples of DOJ documents that are likely to be records under the Federal Records Act:
- Business records: litigation case files, correspondence, agreements, studies
- Action records: FOIA requests, correspondence, invoices, formal responses to requests Records that document DOJ activities: calendars, meeting minutes, reports
- Records mandated by statutes or regulations: case files, decisions
- Records of financial or legal claims: litigation case files, contracts, personnel and payroll
Non-records are documents that do not belong in official files:
- Personal papers not related to DOJ: sports schedule, shopping lists
- Reference materials: professional journals, vendor catalogs
- Convenience copies: duplicates of publications, extra copies of record documentation
Can Electronic Mail (E-mail) be a Record?
Records come in all media – format is irrelevant to the determination of record status. The DOJ E-mail system is simply a transmission pipeline – it can carry records or non-records. An E-mail message is a record if it contains information that relates to the business of your office. The creator or recipient of an E-mail communication must determine whether the message fits the definition of a record.
An E-mail is probably a record if it:
- Documents agreements reached in meetings, telephone conversations, or other E–mail exchanges on substantive matters relating to business processes or activities
- Provides comments on or objections to the language on drafts of policy statements or action plans
- Supplements information in official files and/or adds to a complete understanding of office operations and responsibilities
- Will be needed by you or your successor in carrying out your responsibilities
If you determine that an E-mail is a record, it must be filed appropriately. Unless your component has approved procedures for electronic retention of E-mail, you must print the E-mail message and file/store it in accordance with DOJ’s overall policies and guidance.
What are my Records Management Responsibilities?
You are responsible and accountable for the records that you create or receive. That means:
- Creating records that provide complete and accurate documentation of your activities
- Maintaining records according to your component’s policies and guidelines
- Protecting records from loss, damage, improper destruction, and unauthorized disclosure
- Coordinating the disposition of records with the component records officer/manager
What are the benefits of managing my records?
Good records management:
- Increases efficiency and productivity in your office: accurate and complete documentation, timely responses and retrieval
- Protects records from inappropriate and unauthorized access and disclosure
- Safeguards vital records and provides continuity of operations in the event of a disaster
- Ensures compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements
- Protects the rights of the government and the citizens of the United States
What are the Risks of Poor Management of Records?
- Increased difficulty or inability to complete your work and meet your responsibilities
- Difficulties in fulfilling FOIA or litigation requests
- Criminal or civil penalties, fines and/or imprisonment for:
- The unlawful removal or destruction of federal records (18 U.S.C. 2071)
- The unlawful disclosure of national security information (18 U.S.C. 793,794,& 798)
- The improper handling of records containing other information exempt under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C.552), the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a), and other information to which access is restricted by law.
Office of Records and Management Policy (ORMP) Contacts: