Oklahoma Funds Popular Court Info Website — For Now

While proposed budget cuts could present issues in fiscal year 2016, officials still plan for the state-run site — oscn.net — to eventually offer online access to court records in every county.

by Nolan Clay, The Oklahoman / July 6, 2015
Oklahoma State Courts Network

(TNS) — A popular website of court information in Oklahoma has enough money to stay in operation — for now.

The state-run Internet site — oscn.net — is viewed by the public more than 500,000 times a day. Proposed budget cuts in May had put its availability in doubt.

“For the foreseeable future, we’re up and running,” said Douglas Combs, vice chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The free website provides details about civil, criminal, probate, small claims and divorce cases at 18 courthouses, as well as appeals at the Capitol. For many of the counties, the actual legal filings in a case can be viewed online.

Lawyers are the primary users but landlords use it to check on potential tenants, businesses use it to screen job applicants and news reporters use it to do research for stories.

It also can be a resource for people dating someone new, to see if a love interest has any problems in the past. Parents can use it to check out a new babysitter.

Judges in May had warned oscn.net might be shut down on occasion in fiscal year 2016 because of proposed budget cuts.

At the time, the Legislature was considering using $22 million of the $23 million in the judiciary’s information technology fund for other court operations.

Money comes into the fund from a $25 fee assessed on court cases. The income each month, however, is about the same as the expenses of running the website and of meeting other information technology needs.

Judges complained to legislators about the proposal. They warned that having only a $1 million cushion in the fund was not enough to keep oscn.net in operation if collections were down some month or expenses went up unexpectedly.

In the end, the Legislature took only $10 million from the fund.

“With the way the Legislature funded us ... we feel good about being able to make it through fiscal year ’16,” Combs said.

After this fiscal year?

The new fiscal year began Wednesday.

The availability of the site could become a problem in fiscal year 2017, though, particularly if the information technology fund has to be tapped again in May or June for other court operations, Combs said.

The plan for oscn.net is eventually to have online access to court records in every county. Coming soon is online access to records filed in cases on appeal.

©2015 The Oklahoman, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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