Grant money will help court system

Courts in Jefferson County will be getting a technology upgrade thanks to grant money that is coming from the Ohio Supreme Court.

The $132,803 that was presented Tuesday by Justice Judith French will be used to improve the county’s case-management system.

An additional $5,604 was presented to the county’s probate and juvenile court to cover updates to its case-management system.

Those changes will be welcomed, according to local officials, who have said the age of the county’s current operating system has made it difficult to utilize updated equipment or to replace broken and obsolete equipment. Purchases that will be made with the grant money will increase the speed and efficiency of the office of John Corrigan, the clerk of courts, while helping common pleas Judges Michelle Miller and Joseph Bruzzese Jr.

Once online, the upgraded system will dramatically streamline the process of sharing information inside the court system and will make it easier for members of the public to access court files.

Judges now will be able to view images of important documents from the bench or in their chambers, which will be more efficient than the system now in use, which in many cases requires a bailiff to physically go to the clerk of courts office and retrieve a paper file. Members of the public, meanwhile, will be able to use the improved system to check on hearing dates and view documents, which will help free office staff to spend more time on their other duties.

Plus, as Corrigan points out, making scanned images widely available will reduce the amount of paper his office will need, and that will help to open up space in an increasingly crowded courthouse.

Officials with the probate and juvenile court, meanwhile, plan to use their money to upgrade their website, which they say will offer members of the public better access to court records and information.

French said the grant money is part of the court’s technology initiative, which was started about five years ago. Since then, courts across the state have received more than $14 million, with $2.7 being distributed this year.

That’s money well spent — improved access to information will, as Miller said, lead to better access to justice. And that’s the ultimate goal of the court system.