Sifting through legal databases with pages of online documents can be cumbersome despite the search functionality available in many legal databases -- but the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN) has found a tool to simplify legal searches.

The OSCN contains an online research database with more than 500,000 legal documents from various Oklahoma courts -- and it needed an efficient way to search through them.

To that end, it recently upgraded its Web-based search engine by installing dtSearch Text Retrieval Engine, which enables full-text searches through the database for locating specific documents more quickly.

OSCN Webmaster Adam Southerland said the home page can perform two different searches: one with dtSearch and one without. The OSCN’s legal database contains at least 8 gigabytes of data, and holds a wide range of legal documents, all of which are public. Using the dtSearch text retrieval engine, OSCN staff, attorneys and the public can look up documents in the database.

According to dtSearch, the software searches across desktop, network, Internet or Intranet sites, and developers can embed the search functionality and file format support into their own applications.

Southerland said the two components to dtSearch allow users to pull results or documents through search, but the second piece also allows users to perform all of the indexing to keep information up to date. Only a few members on staff have the capability to complete indexing using dtSearch.

Whoever files a document (for example, a document on case law) usually sends a copy to someone on staff who can index the information, and the document is then converted to HTML format. Along with the HTML, meta data is also stored about each document – data like when the document was created, if it replaced a different document or other pertinent information that goes with a document.

“If you’re on trial, you’re on trial for that law at that time that it happened,” Southerland said, so it’s important the legal documents contain proper date information.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information provided by the Oklahoma State Courts Network.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.