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Franklin County Courts Unveil Electronic Filing

Just as doctors are moving toward electronic medical records, so too are city and county courts in an effort reduce the paper chase that is part of court filings and proceedings. Monday, Franklin County unveils its electronic filing system. The challenge is to bring 17 judges, thousands of cases and hundreds of attorneys into the same communication network.

Common Pleas Clerk of Court Information Technology Director Rosa Barker says recordkeeping has come a long way since she started working in the clerk's office.

"Trust me, the papers I had to file, and my penmanship, the writing on those docket books, if anybody looks it up, it's awful. But the efficiencies we have today .it's very exciting."

The "efficiency" being introduced will move the county courts toward electronic filing of everything from requests for motions, motions granted and denied to what are called courtesy copies of requests made by one side to the other parties involved in a case. Anything, Barker says, that today travels by regular U-S mail.

Clerk of Courts Maryellen O'Shaunghnessy says while electronic filing is new to Franklin County, it's been routine at the federal level for years.

Users of the county's system will include attorneys filing with the clerk's office and other county agencies Each will register with the court to be part of the e-filing system.

O'Shaunghnessy notes the general public already has online access to public records. With those records, personal identifiers such as social security numbers are redacted or removed. She says e-filing will follow similar privacy standards. IT director Rosa Barker explains that material will be totally encrypted and filed electronically in a secured system.

Common Pleas Court Judge Guy Reece is upbeat about electronic filing. He thinks it will make records more easily accessible, improve the court's efficiency, cut the cost of paper and boost the level of communication.

"I think it will make the practice of law better. It will make people communicate more, I think, than they're communicating now."

Judge Reece predicts e-filing will appeal to generations who have been raised with computers.

"We're going to have younger judges that have been reared in this electronic age, and they will insist upon having electronic capabilities."

The county's new system comes online over the next two years. It begins with civil cases, then probate and on through domestic, criminal and juvenile courts and finally the 10th District Court of Appeals.

But as more courts and more cases depend on electronic filing, what happens if the system crashes? IT director Barker says the vendor chosen by the county, Tibera, has a good track record.

"They've been doing this for a while. - I think 6 to 7 years, and they haven't had this issue. But, you know, things happen."

She says if the system crashes, things will again be done the way they are now, what she calls "the old fashioned way."