Litigation Hold Guideline

Washington University in St. Louis has a duty to preserve potentially relevant information (PRI), including information stored electronically, when litigation has been filed, when the university reasonably anticipates litigation or when the university receives notice of a regulatory investigation.

The guideline will serve to:

  • Ensure establishment, maintenance and execution of standardized litigation hold procedures across the university community
  • Clarify the university’s requirements for legal holds
  • Provide an integrated view of the functions of the university as they relate to hold requests and eDiscovery
  • Support the university’s strategy to incorporate information technology as an integral part of decision-making, competitive positioning and delivery of services

The Office of General Counsel (OGC) may issue legal holds, directing recipients to retain certain documents, data and tangible things related to legal matters such as litigation, arbitration, audits and government investigations.

Legal holds apply to documents, data and other items within their scope, regardless of whether the information is a university record, and regardless of the information’s format or medium (hardcopy paper, microfilm, email or other electronic documents), the status as an original or copy, the location or the custodian.

Legal holds supersede any records retention schedule, and university records subject to pending legal holds must be preserved even if the applicable retention period under a records retention schedule has expired.

University areas aware of pending or anticipated legal matters, through receipt of a legal hold notice or otherwise, must identify the location of all documents, data and tangible items related to the legal matter, suspend all destruction processes for such information, and retain such documents, data and other items in their existing format (paper, electronic or other format) until otherwise notified by OGC. If university records are retained on personal devices, such as computers, laptops, tablets, cell phones, cloud storage, flash drives or other devices or media, those devices or media must be provided to the university for implementation of the legal hold.

OGC will notify the appropriate university area when the legal hold has been lifted.

Updated April 1, 2013.