Albemarle Regional Library

 

Procedures for Responding to Court Orders, Subpoenas and Search Warrants

 

General Information

It is possible that the Library may receive requests for confidential records by local, state or federal law enforcement agencies. Article III of ALA's Code of Ethics states that "[librarians] protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received, and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted."

 

Therefore in accordance with the Albemarle Regional Library's Privacy of Records Policy, confidential library records shall only be released or made available in any format to local, state, or federal law enforcement agents pursuant to subpoena, search warrant or a court order by a court of competent jurisdiction. The only exception shall be if a federal law enforcement agent declares exigent (emergency) circumstances as required under the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act or other subsequent law requiring disclosure.

 

Definitions:

Library Director's Designee: in the case of the absence of the Director the following positions, in the order listed as the Director's designee, will assist the officer/agent: Finance Officer, Local Board President, Regional Board President, Regional Board Members.

 

A subpoena is a judicially enforceable document directing the appearance of a person to testify, or to produce specified materials at a designated time and place. .

 

A search warrant is a judicially enforceable order authorizing the search of specific premises for materials described in the search warrant with reasonable particularity.

 

A court order is an order in proper form entered by a judge of a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

Procedures:

In any circumstance below, if you cannot contact the appropriate people in the chain of command or the county Attorney, you are obligated to honor legal inquiries, and should keep accurate records of what transpires.

 

1.) If presented with a subpoena:

     1. Politely ask to see the officer/agent's identification card/badge, and make note of the

         agency's name, individual's name, and badge number, if available.

     2. Direct the officer/agent to the Library Director or his designee.

     3. The Library Director/designee will confer with the County Attorney for assurance that

         the order is in proper form.

     4. Once the order has been found to be in proper form, the specific documents/records

         requested in the subpoena will be provided. If possible, obtain a receipt for

         documents/records provided. If the subpoena does not request the documents to be

                     produced on that same day, do not produce it until the date requested.

     5. If the order is not in proper form, Library administration shall require that any

                      shortcoming[s] be cured before any documents/records are provided.


 

    6. If, in the execution of the subpoena, additional information is requested, the request will

        be denied until the subpoena has been amended to include all information. [Example:

        Subpoena only requests lists of people who used Computer #3. After seeing the name of

         the individual they are looking for, officers/agents additionally ask for the computer. Do

         not give up the computer until the court amends the subpoena.]

    7. Create an inventory of all documents/records/equipment removed or information

        provided by the Library.

    8. Complete a Confidential Incident Report.

 

2.) If presented with a search warrant or court order:

    1. A search warrant is executable immediately. A court order may also be, but will

        generally state when compliance is needed.

    2. Staff will in no way hinder the search of duly sworn officers/agents.

    3. Politely ask to see the officer/agent's identification card/badge, and make note of the

        agency's name, individual's name, and badge or ill number, if available.

    4. Staff will request that the search not be started until Library administration is notified and

        can be present.

    5. Staff will immediately notify the Library Director or his designee who will request that

        the search not be started until the County Attorney's Office has reviewed the warrant,

        with an agreement that the Library will "preserve the evidence" until the County

                     Attorney's Office can respond. If the County Attorney's Office is not promptly available,

        however, do not hinder or delay the search.

    6. Cooperate with the search to ensure that only the materials identified in the warrant are

                     produced and that no other users' records are viewed or scanned.

    7. Create an inventory of all documents/records/equipment removed or information taken"

        from the Library.

    8. Complete a confidential Incident Report.

 

3.) If presented with a search warrant issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance

    Act (FISA):

    1. The search warrant is executable immediately.

    2. FISA search warrants contain a "gag order". This means that no person or institution

        served with a warrant can disclose, except to its legal counsel, that the warrant has been

        served or that records have been produced pursuant to the warrant, especially to the

                     patron whose records are the subject of the search warrant. Previously, occasions to

                    disclose information, e.g. to the press, sometimes arose, but now failure to comply with

        the "gag order" may result in prosecution. Since the Library serves as an Institution,

        going up the chain of command is permissible.

    3. Politely ask to see the officer/agent's identification card/badge, and make note of the

        agency's name, individual's name, and badge or ill number, if available.

    4. Staff will in no way hinder the search of duly sworn officers/agents.

    5. Staff will request that the search not be started until Library administration is notified and

        can be present.

    6. Staff will immediately notify the Library Director or his designee who will request that

        the search not be started until the County Attorney's Office has reviewed the warrant,

        with an agreement that the Library will "preserve the evidence" until the County

   

        Attorney's Office can respond. If the County Attorney's Office is not promptly available,

                     however, do not hinder or delay the search.

    7. Cooperate with the search to ensure that only the materials identified in the warrant are

        produced and that no other users' records are viewed or scanned.

    8. Create an inventory of all documents/records/equipment removed or information taken

        from the Library.

    9. Complete a Confidential Incident Report.

 

4.) If presented with no written authority :

    1. Due to emergency circumstances federal agents acting under FISA may request

        confidential information without presenting a subpoena or warrant.

    2. Politely ask to see the officer/agent's identification card/badge, and make note of the

        agency's name, individual's name, and badge or ill number, if available.

    3. If the agent/officer refuses to provide identification, do not provide any information and

        immediately call the County Attorney's Office.

    4. Refer the officer/agent to the Branch Manager.

    5. Staff will immediately contact the Library Director or his designee.

    6. Request that the officer/agent serve to the Library a court order in proper form as soon as

        practical.

    7. Create an inventory of all documents/records/equipment rt1ffioved or information taken

        from the Library.

    8. Complete a Confidential Incident Report.

 

In all cases, after the incident administration will:

1. Review the court order with the County Attorney's Office to ensure that the Library

    complies with any continuing requirements, including restrictions on sharing

    information with others.

2. Discuss with the County Attorney's Office the benefit or burden of following up

    compliance with the court order with a request to the court for a protective order

    keeping the information confidential and limiting its use to the particular court

    proceeding, that the access be limited to those persons working directly on the matter

    in the court proceeding.

3. Review Library policy, procedures, and staff response and update accordingly.

4. Prepare a statement for the press if inquiries are made.