The Ohio County Circuit Court is changing the computer software it uses to keep court records, and it's the first step toward the implementation of a computerized court filing system in the county expected to save local courts thousands of dollars each year.
In September, the county learned it was one of 14 West Virginia counties selected by the state Supreme Court to participate in a pilot project in which all of the county's hard copy case files would be digitized and stored electronically. The system also will allow attorneys to eventually e-file court cases with the county from their own computers at any time.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals will be funding the new system, and assuming the cost of hardware and maintenance changes.
Photo by Joselyn King
Ohio County Circuit Clerk Brenda L. Miller said records in the office will be digitized as part of a new e-filing system mandated by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Currently local circuit courts pay for their own computer hardware, software, maintenance and updates, according to Ohio County Circuit Clerk Brenda L. Miller.
"Once this transition takes places, the finances will be switched over completely to the West Virginia Supreme Court," she said. "Every county that does this - it will benefit their county residents."
Ohio County's initial switchover of data to the new system, and the necessary training of court employees, will cost the high court about $200,000, according to Miller. After this, the move will save the county about $30,000 it pays annually for maintenance and software upgrades.
The Ohio County Circuit Clerk's Office then will have a smaller budget once the change is complete, she said.
The Supreme Court in August 2013 mandated there be a uniform court filing system among counties in the state after it was discovered differences in their filing systems were leading to confusion among court officers.
This resulted in some cases being wrongfully dropped.
Marion and Jefferson counties already have started its e-filing systems, and Ohio County has been slated to be third county to go online.
But unlike those two counties, Ohio County didn't already have in place the new court information software needed for e-filing, Miller said. Ohio County had been set to go online with e-filing earlier this year, but the county just recently received its software and is now making certain it works properly.
For a time, the county will likely run both its current and the new computerized filling systems, Miller said.
"The Supreme Court is being patient with us," she said. "They know we will be doing double duty for a while."