The archives of courts and prosecutor’s offices are bursting at the seams. Are Poland’s important documents in danger?

The archives of the judicial institutions are bursting at the seams. The situation is so dire that they are forced to rent random warehouses for file storage.

The archives of the judicial institutions are bursting at the seams. The situation is so dire that they are forced to rent random warehouses for file storage. There are safer and half cheaper solutions– argues Konrad Rochalski, the president of ArchiDoc.

Lack of funds takes its toll on courts and prosecutor’s offices in a myriad of ways: lack of staff, difficulties with the premises or bad condition of the rooms. It also concerns archives, where important documents are stored.

Many times I’ve seen file cabinets simply left in the corridors. The situation is especially dire in courts and prosecutor’s offices located in old buildings. Institutions burdened with a large number of cases, for example in the Warsaw district and appellate courts, may have difficulties with proper storage and fast and effective finding of documents– explains Jakub Bartosiak, attorney from the Michrowski Bartosiak Family Office law firm.

Judicial institutions try to salvage this difficult situation by renting additional external warehouses. They have to be properly prepared, equipped and secured, which entails significant expenditure. Taking shortcuts, which some of the law firms tend to do, may lead to disastrous consequences. It was illustrated by the fire at the hall near Warsaw in the middle of April, where law firms were storing documents in inappropriate conditions. Enormous quantities of vital judicial documents were burned during that fire.

Another issue is the ability to quickly locate the needed documents. The media have recently put emphasis on at least few cases of files lost during high-profile cases.

Specialized external companies could offer a solution. They have specially formulated procedures and archive warehouses in place for handling of legal acts. The acts are properly safeguarded in sealed archive containers in order to prevent access by third parties. Then they are escorted to the Central Archive Warehouse. Authorized persons in the courts or prosecutor’s offices can order the needed documents via an app.

Thanks to the support provided by ArchiDoc, archivists can focus on ongoing work. Their productivity increases by about 30-40 percent. The costs of such services are 50 percent lower in relation to the costs of renting and equipping an external warehouse by a judicial institution. The whole process meets the highest safety requirements– explains Konrad Rochalski.

Some judicial institutions have already started to cooperate with professional third parties. Upper Silesia is the leader on that front. Courts in Katowice, Zabrze or Jaworzno have decided to entrust tasks within the scope of archiving case files and keeping records to outsourcing companies. Courts in Warsaw also use support within the confines of keeping external archives or archiving.

Such solutions are sometimes met with resistance.- It’s normal. Let’s keep in mind that the private sector also needed some time to open up to the outsourcing model. Once it made that step, it turned out that it has started to enjoy a number of benefits. The case with judicial institutions is similar. We understand the specific character of such institutions and their needs– argues Konrad Rochalski, the president of ArchiDoc. He also points to the fact that the outsourcing is a logical solution in case where there are no funds for expanding archives and additional posts. And that is the case in courts, prosecutor’s offices and the prison system.

– Storage of judicial documents is an important state obligation. That way, the legal and institutional continuity is ensured. It is well illustrated be privatization, where the judgements and case files often go as far back as several decades. Another example would be saving insurance policies or mortgage loans, which are taken for 20, 30 years. Document verification determines the factual circumstances– explains Jakub Bartosiak, an attorney specializing in currency loans and insurances.

There are around 400 judicial archives and around 500 prosecutor archives in Poland.