Court Records Go Digital for Judges in McDowell County, W.Va.

Judges are able to access any file from their benches, saving time on looking for documents and records that are not immediately at hand. Electronically filing also helps reduce storage-related issues.

by Greg Jornday, Bluefield Daily Telegraph / June 17, 2019
Shutterstock/piick

(TNS) — Files crammed with thick stacks of documents and the ranks of filing cabinets that hold them have always been a part of the legal profession, but new technology is putting these volumes of legal records a computer screen away in McDowell County.

A computer screen and keyboard have joined the gavel and law books found on the bench of Circuit Court Judge Rudolph J. Murensky. Murensky said the new system allows him to look up and consult legal documents when court is in session.

Clerks at the McDowell County Courthouse and attorneys started using the new e-filing in mid-May.

“It’s been in effect for about a week now,” Deputy Circuit Clerk Melissa Stone said soon after the system’s installation. “Everything is filed electronically now – lawsuits, motions, orders – just anything you would normally file is e-filed now.”

Attorneys were being notified about the new system and how to register on the courthouse’s new website so they could file their documents.

While there were challenges while everyone was adjusting to the new system and some documents were still arriving by mail, but Stone said, “It’s going to help in the long run.”

Judges are able to access any file from their benches, saving time on looking for documents and records that are not immediately at hand. Electronically filing and storing legal documents also helps reduce the problem of storing so many files. Files and backups to them can be saved without having to fill whole rooms with file cabinets.

“Storage is a major issue down here. That (e-file) will definitely help matters,” Stone said. “We are the 19th county to get it. Eventually every county will be e-filing.”

The system is able to store some of the evidence, such as documents and photos, used during trials. When there are plea hearings, documents will be scanned into the e-file system right in the courtrooms.

The only paper that will be used is when a member of the general public files a suit, she said. The transition has been relatively smooth.

“It’s not been as hard as we thought it would be,” Stone said. “The last system, we had it for 14 years. It’s been an easy process to convert; I think it has so far.”

©2019 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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