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VOL. 127 | NO. 126 | Thursday, June 28, 2012

Criminal Courts Work Toward E-Filing System

By Bill Dries

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Before he was elected Criminal Court clerk in 2010, Kevin Key worked on the e-filing system in Circuit Court that made its debut this week along with the same system in Chancery Court.

Circuit and Chancery courts, in the County Courthouse, recently debuted e-filing.

(Daily News File Photo: Bill Dries)

And Key is now working toward an e-filing system for the Criminal Court system that presents some different challenges than those in Circuit or Chancery, which are civil courts.

“I kind of left it as it was being birthed,” Key said of his part of the move to e-filing, which began in 1998. “We had set that system up over there so we could move towards it and stay current.”

Attorneys and others began registering Monday, June 25, for e-filing at the Circuit and Chancery Court Clerks’ offices.

Several requests for proposals from computer software firms are about to go out from different parts of the county’s criminal justice system including the Criminal Court Clerk’s office for parts of a computer system that would tie the different systems into a hub. Key’s part of the system would include the ability to file court documents by computer or scan them into a system.

“It’s going to be the largest single computer system ever implemented by Shelby County government,” Key said of the project that already has $8 million in capital funding in the county budget. “It’s like a hub on a wheel that makes sure all of the offices are communicating. As we move toward this, whichever company we end up with in the e-filing world, we hope that the public will go to one page and then that one page will direct them to the different e-filing systems.”

The 10 divisions of Criminal Court have different filing habits than civil courts.

“It isn’t a real paper heavy court like the civil courts are. Their jackets could be on average an inch thick. Our jackets if they are an eighth of an inch thick that’s getting there,” Key said. “The difference is attorneys do a lot of the filing themselves. A lot of the stuff in the criminal courts originates in the courtroom and is form driven. The e-filing system would be a little different in the fact that in the civil courts the attorneys would prepare the documents in their offices more so.”

There are also security measures that are now done manually. Key is attending a conference this month on redaction software that is now a consideration for any clerk handling documents that include Social Security numbers and other personal information.

“Right now, we’ve been scanning the documents for five years, some going back seven years,” Key said. “And every time we want to give someone a copy, they’ll manually redact it with a Magic Marker and then they give you a redacted copy. We hope to automate that.”

Meanwhile, Probate Court Clerk Paul Boyd said the two divisions of that court still have some steps to take before they are ready for e-filing.

“If you were to walk in this office as an employee, you would think, ‘Why are we still in the dark ages?’” he said of the early 1990s technology.

Boyd says his office will begin implementation and training with ACS, the case management system being used by Circuit and Chancery, in the next month. That will probably take a year to fully implement with e-filing following in two to three years.

“We’re just trying to get to the current level,” Boyd said. “We would like to get to e-filing one day. There are a lot of things where we need people physically in front of us to be sworn in to testify to certain things before they file just because of a difference in what our court handles. … But we think we could make it work.”

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