Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

Courts enter paperless era

POLK COUNTY — Not too often, but occasionally, an urgent mass email would go out to all Polk County Circuit Court staff. It would read something along the lines of: "Please search your work area for case file No. X."

Polk County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Monte Campbell demonstrates the county’s new paperless eCourt system in his office Monday. The system went live Jan. 13.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Polk County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Monte Campbell demonstrates the county’s new paperless eCourt system in his office Monday. The system went live Jan. 13.

February 04, 2014

POLK COUNTY — Not too often, but occasionally, an urgent mass email would go out to all Polk County Circuit Court staff. It would read something along the lines of: "Please search your work area for case file No. X."

Working with paper files leaves losing a case file a rare, but very real possibly. Now that the county has completed a months-long transition to the Oregon eCourt System — a new, nearly paperless system — that is no longer a worry.

"I haven't seen one of those emails since we did this," Polk County Presiding Judge Monte Campbell said laughing.

Also gone are the days that anyone wanting to look at a case file was handed a sometimes bulky folder and a container of paper clips to mark pages to copy.

Welcome to the paperless age, Polk County.

After months of transition — mostly needed to allow employees time to scan paper files — eCourt went live for court staff on Jan. 13. As of Jan. 27, case files were available online through designated public terminals or through the Oregon eCourt Case Information system (OECI).

Oregon Judicial Information Network (OJIN) users can access Polk County files entered before Jan. 9 until the end of February.

As of the end of February, all case information will be available only through OECI.

The aging of the sorely outdated OJIN system was behind the switch, which each circuit court in the state will go through by 2016. Campbell said the decades-old program was dying a slow, but potentially painful death.

"There were only two people who were left in the state who could fix the system," he said. "It's a system that was going to break at some point and it was getting larger because there's more cases being filed.

"It was going to break at a bad time," he added.

Thus far, 10 counties have made the leap, with Polk and Benton counties being the latest.

Instead of paper case files, this is what judges refer to during court proceedings with the eCourt system.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Instead of paper case files, this is what judges refer to during court proceedings with the eCourt system.

Campbell said thanks to the tireless work of court staff and Tyler Technologies, which designed the new system's software, Odyssey, the transition has been painless — even for those who were skeptical about their ability to adapt. Campbell admits he was among the group concerned about working on a file exclusively by computer instead of with a hard copy.

"I was a little concerned about my ability to analyze it quickly, but I have found that I don't have to print out anything to analyze it," Campbell said. "I just pull it up on the screen."

The system uses two monitors, so multiple files can be open at the same time. Judges can also enter notes — some only viewable to other judges and others that everyone can see. Campbell said once the entire state is on the system, it will streamline court-to-court transfers, occasionally necessary due to conflicts. Case files will no longer have to be delivered, but can be pulled up simply by typing in the case number.

"For small counties like ours, it's a good thing to have," Campbell said.

More changes are in store. Not only will files be viewable online, but filing submissions can soon be done online.

"We are coming to an age that, as this matures, attorneys will be filing online," Campbell said.

After just a few short weeks — and perhaps to his surprise — Campbell said he doesn't miss working from case files.

"I would not go back at this point," he said.

Take a Look

• Current cases can be accessed at the public terminal at the Polk County Court records office, Room 301 at the Polk County Courthouse, 850 Main St., Dallas, or starting at the end of February, on any computer through a subscription to the Oregon eCourt Case Information system.

Hot Jobs