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County courts go paperless

BY MICHAEL KADRIE | JUNE 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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Paper record keeping is a thing of the past for the Johnson County courts as they embrace digital storage in a cost-cutting, environmentally conscious move.

Any cases opened after June 17 in Johnson County will be entirely paperless.  All of the information will also be available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to the concerned parties and authorities.

The shift is part of a four-year, ongoing, county-by-county initiative across Iowa to switch to electronic data management systems. Filing such court documents as depositions, restraining orders, and verdicts electronically will cut costs for the county in the long run. 

It’s not just about saving paper, either. 

With fewer files being printed, the county will save storage space, said Mickey Miller, a grants and communications specialist for Johnson County.

However, any new system implemented on this scale is bound to encounter a couple problems, such as a learning curve for employees.

“It’s still in process; there are still a lot of bugs,” Miller said.

Open cases introduced into the system before June 17 will be filed both electronically and physically until the case is closed, which, County Attorney Janet Lyness said, was one of the most difficult aspects of the transition.

Lyness said the next couple of weeks will be busy as employees adapt to the new system.

“For the next few months, it’ll be difficult, but in a year, we’ll think it’s great,” Lyness said.

Her office has to restructure itself to adapt to the new digital method by modifying various operating procedures for employees, she said.

Although the documents can now be accessed all day, she said, more responsibility from users is required to view the documents, as well as the user being more aware of what information is available, and to be able to find it within the system.

Johnson County wasn’t the first to make this change.

Linn County began training clerks, judges, attorneys, as well as other court staff in February for the new data management system.

Carroll Edmondson, a Linn County administrator, said roughly 95 percent of the documents are now paperless.

However, Edmondson said Linn County has also experienced a learning curve.

Edmondson said the department has seen a problem with technological literacy but expects employees to become more familiar with the system as they start using it more.

“There are still a couple bumps right now, but that’s to be expected,” said Edmondson.

Although the records will be online, Lyness said, paper copies of the documentation can still be requested.

Lyness said she believe the transition is positive, despite initial difficulties.


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