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Guide to the American Civil Liberties Union Records at the Mudd Manuscript Library

Mudd is the main document repository for records from the ACLU's national office and other related collections.

Note on Access Restrictions

Materials in the ACLU Subgroups 3 and 4 must be reviewed for legal restrictions prior to research use. Please submit requests for material from Subgroups 3 and 4 via your Research Account at least 10 business days before visiting the library to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within 10 business days to let you know whether the material is available for research use. Individuals may make up to 15 requests per month.

Types of Access Restrictions

This agreement describes the limits on access to portions of the American Civil Liberties Union Records as provided by paragraph six of the agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Princeton University Library dated on March 1993. These restrictions may be revised from time to time at the initiation of either party.

Consistent with its support of freedom of information and informed public discourse on matters of public interest, the American Civil Liberties Union Records will be completely open to researchers. However, sections of the Records shall be closed for stated periods of time to protect privacy, confidentiality, and attorney-client privilege. The following categories of records shall be restricted as indicated below:

Personnel Records - Records which deal with personnel issues, whether in personnel files or in other files maintained by the ACLU shall be closed during the lifetime of the person to whom they apply. When scattered personnel records are present in open files, they shall be governed by this paragraph. This restriction shall not apply if the person or persons to whom the record applies have given their permission in writing to disclose said information.

Administrative Records - Records maintained by ACLU administrators (Board and Executive committee members, officers, executives, department heads, project directors, etc.) shall be closed for twenty years after the creation of the record or ten years after its deposit in the Princeton University Library, whichever is later, but in no case for more than 30 years after the creation of the record. Personnel records will continue to be closed as provided above.

Development Records - Records relating to financial support from foundations or other legal entities but not individuals or their family foundations shall be closed for the same period as administrative records. Records relating to financial support by individual donors or their family foundations shall be returned to the ACLU if other more substantive issues relating to policy are not raised by the correspondence. When other issues are relevant, these records shall be closed for the same period as administrative records. Where opened the portions relating to individuals or their family foundations shall be treated like personnel records as provided below.

Legal Case Records - Legal Case Files shall be segregated into four categories:

1) Open Records - publicly-available materials relating to the case (public court records such as briefs, transcripts, exhibits, and judgments as well as other records such as press releases and media coverage) shall be open immediately upon transfer to Princeton.

2) Work Product Privileged Records - correspondence, memoranda, drafts of briefs prepared in anticipation of litigation, written statements of witnesses, and notes of mental impressions or personal recollections prepared or formed by an attorney shall be open twenty years after the closure of the case.

3) Attorney-Client Privileged Records - any document reflecting an exchange with a client or a potential client (including but not limited to written correspondence, memoranda to the file, notes, or any other report of communication to or from a client or potential client) made for the purpose of furnishing or obtaining professional legal advice and assistance shall be closed for seventy-five years for all clients, except for children where the period of closure shall be one hundred years.

4) The access rules set forth above do not apply to the following materials: classified documents; documents that have been placed under seal by a court or are subject to a protective order; documents that identify by name or otherwise clients that have been represented anonymously or pseudonymously; the terms of any confidential settlement or agreement. All such documents shall remain permanently closed unless the records are declassified, unsealed, the protective order is modified, or the client or the client's legal representative waives the privilege in writing.


Though not specified in the agreement with the ACLU, Princeton may also restrict records due to the presence of personally identifiable information not revealed in court. As with attorney-client privileged records, records containing personally identifiable information will be closed for seventy-five years (100 years if the information pertains to children).