Online digitized court records now available in Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Gallatin and Franklin Counties…
A statewide project to digitize court records – and eventually make them more accessible to the public – advanced this week with the launch of electronic filing in Kenton County Circuit Court.
Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Gallatin and Franklin counties now provide the 24-7 service for civil cases.
But the goal is to get all 120 Kentucky counties and all types of cases operating on a single system by the end of 2015, said Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Michelle Keller, chair of the courts’ Technology Governance Committee and leader of this effort, already 10 years in the making.
Here in Northern Kentucky, the goal is to give the public the ability to look up cases online – for a nominal subscription fee – by the end of the year or early next year, Keller said.
“Many people have worked very hard to take this first step in making our system more efficient, cost-effective and better able to meet the needs of our citizens,” she said.
Funding had been the system’s biggest hurdle, Keller said, until the Kentucky Legislature gave the state’s courts permission in 2013 to borrow $28.1 million – enough to get everyone up and running.
A closer look at the current system strengthened the committee’s argument for an upgrade, revealing an aging infrastructure, rife with security risks, Keller said.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Boone Circuit Clerk Dianne Murray, whose court has had a couple hundred cases filed electronically since May.
Murray has been pleased with the system after working out a bug that led to lengthy waits on credit card transactions.
E-filing simplifies the work for court clerks, lawyers and judges.
Deputy clerk Sherry Goodridge handled Kenton County’s first e-filing, a foreclosure, Wednesday.
“It was very easy to do,” said Goodridge, estimating it saved her 30 minutes compared to the in-person system – the only way complaints were filed before.
Instead of writing everything out by hand and then entering it into the state’s computer database, she was able to print the file and it was automatically entered into the state system.
In Kenton County the e-filing system also allows clerks to send court summons directly to the sheriff’s office, which serves those summons, instead of sitting in a mailbox awaiting a deputy to pick them up each day.
E-filing should also save law firms and legal aid agencies time and money, Keller said, because they won’t have to constantly send runners to and from the court houses to file and pick up documents.
Keller hopes all of these efficiencies will reduce the cost of doing business in the courts.
She does not, however, believe it will cost court employees their jobs because most clerk’s offices are already understaffed.
“Retirements and natural attrition should take care of it,” said Keller.
She’s eager for the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court to be included in the effort, too, so she can carry around a DVD or thumb drive of the cases she reviews, instead of lugging around boxes and boxes of records.
Keller sees this as just another efficiency in the Kentucky court system, which has already done away with bail bondsmen, records court proceedings with audio and video (instead of relying on court reporters) and has implemented video arraignments.
“By studying other state’s (computerized) systems, we’ve learned from their mistakes and successes,” Keller said, “and think we’ll have one of the best systems in the country.” ■