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Court news going onlinePosted Wednesday, March 23, 2011, at 2:24 PM
Change for the better is always a good thing, except when it upsets my apple cart.
Go with the flow sounds good, as long as it's someone else that has to do it.
On my beat, there's a big change under way at the courthouse.
On the positive side, it's a change that the majority of the public will love. People who don't want everyone to know about their past criminal record -- might not love it so much.
They are switching some of the court records into a new computer system and much of the information will be available online.
When a case is filed, instead of being recorded by handwriting in a big, heavy red book, it will be entered into the system.
This is going to make it a lot easier for me to follow up on a case, when the next court day is scheduled and when someone is going to go to trial or be sentenced.
Instead of making phone calls or asking (over and over) what's happening with so-and-so's case, all I'll have to do, and all you'll have to do too, is navigate to the online database, type in a name, and the cases that have been filed against them will pop up. Choose the one you're wondering about (if they have more than one -- and some people have many) and it'll show what they've been charged with, who's representing them, a brief summary of each hearing that's happened and what's scheduled in the future, date, time and place.
Or if it's already been decided, it will show the outcome, whether the case was dismissed or whether it went to trial, what the verdict was and if they were sentenced, for how long.
You'll have access to this information for both criminal cases and civil cases including divorces, small claims collections, etc., and even infractions. Yes, that means all of your pesky traffic tickets are going to be recorded in this system.
The process of switching to this system began last week and will be ongoing for some unknown time. All of the people who deal with these cases have been in training to learn the new system and are in an adjustment period as they transition all of the current pending cases into the system. That is a major project as there are thousands of pending, or undecided, unfinished cases in Greene County at any point in time. It's going to take a while before all of those are keyed in.
This transition is happening statewide, one county at a time. Monroe County made the jump quite a while ago and so did Owen County. There are 92 counties in the state and Greene County is number 27 to get onboard. The others will follow.
I'm not sure how long it will be before the records for the whole state are online, but eventually one will be able to type in your own name, or anyone's name, and be able to see their criminal cases, and civil cases, from every single county.
That's great for the future -- those "public" records are going to become a lot more public.
But for now, for me, I had my little system set up and everything worked quite nicely and now it doesn't. Oh yes, I'm sure it will again, but since the transition began, my normal court news gathering routine has bit the dust. I will adjust, not because I want to, because I have to.
I must not cry too much though, because all of the people in the clerk's office and in both court offices are having to make more adjustments than me, and they're having to key in a lot of information.
Obviously all of the pending cases will go in to the system. I have not yet asked the question about whether they plan to add in other closed cases from the past.
The system is not live online yet, but it's coming. I don't know the timeline for that but I'm sure there will be an announcement and news story when it happens.
Anna is a staff writer at the Greene County Daily World and can be reached by calling the office at 847-4487 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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