Nov 95 Level of Govt.: Local Function: Courts Problem/Situation: The Gallia County Clerk of Courts Office was inundated with paper and expensive ledgers used to keep track of cases. Solution: An automated court system. Jurisdiction: Gallia County, Ohio. Vendors: ATEK. Contact: Gallia County Clerk of Courts Office 614/446-4612. Kicker: Keeping Track ...

By Justine Kavanaugh Staff Writer Nestled between the rolling Ohio River and the small city of Gallipolis, lies the historic Gallia County, Ohio, courthouse. The courthouse, which has undergone a major technological revolution over the past few years, is now fully automated, and a prime example of how even small, rural counties can benefit from technology and a little reengineering. The Clerk of Courts Office in Gallia County handles approximately 750 new case files each year and is responsible for filing papers and other related documents and records for the Common Pleas Court. These include papers on domestic, civil and criminal cases plus all the files associated with the Court of Appeals. With all this work, the staff was consistently struggling to keep up, and began looking for some solutions. "One of my first goals was to improve office efficiency and implement changes that would benefit the customers, employees and myself," said Louise Burger, clerk of courts. "We began with small things like photocopying journal entries and records, streamlining the method of paying jurors and - most importantly - improving the filing system." But simply reengineering some office procedures wasn't enough. They were still working harder than ever to keep up. So Gallia County officials visited some other, larger counties using automated systems and customized software to help ease the load. "Although the computer systems were used more in larger counties, we saw there was a definite benefit to them, and didn't see any reason why we should be left behind," said Burger.

CHOOSING A SYSTEM After searching for a system that would meet their needs, the Gallia County Clerk of Courts Office eventually chose ATEK, an Ohio-based firm that had put together several similar systems for other jurisdictions. ATEK helped Gallia County put together a Common Pleas Court Administration system with three major functions - case management, cash book and judicial procedure. Each is designed to save money and improve office efficiency. According to Burger, the receivable function alone - which was implemented first - has paid for the system. "Within a month we had collected about $15,000 in back court costs. It's amazing how much more in court costs we collect now because before we had no way of tracking who owed what and whether they had actually sent in a payment or not." With that success behind her, Burger was anxious to start the front-end receipting. "It's probably the most time-saving phase of the operation," she said. "Prior to the system, everything was hand-posted into large books. There was a book for civil or domestic cases, one for criminal and one for miscellaneous plus another for the Court of Appeals. These books were expensive, ranging from $500 and $600 for the appearance dockets to around $2,000 for the index." Not having to purchase these books has translated to added savings for the court.

KEEPING THINGS IN ORDER The case management portion of the system was also a welcomed addition that greatly increased the court's ability to keep things organized and to maintain accurate, readily-accessible court records. When new cases are entered into the system, they are numbered automatically by the type of case. The system automatically generates summons and adds issuance to the docket. It also creates an index which can be accessed from a public display terminal. A witness addition feature keeps track of all witnesses subpoenaed in a case, and fees for court costs are automatically added as papers are filed. The fees can be displayed or printed at any time. Burger said that the best aspect of the system was that it