Copies of court documents will be available for electronic viewing once the new system is in place.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- The Columbiana County Clerk of Courts' vast legal files will be available on the Internet later this year.
The office is preparing to go online this summer, Clerk of Courts Anthony Dattilio said recently.
That means the public can use the Web to access an array of records, including criminal, civil and appeals court documents, without having to visit the courthouse.
Records kept by the clerk of courts are frequently used by the general public, attorneys, title searchers and the news media.
For years, information on court cases has been computer-accessible, but only from terminals at the clerk of courts' third-story offices in the county courthouse.
Using the courthouse terminals, the public can determine what cases have been filed in the court system, identities of the parties involved, who's representing the litigants, what motions have been filed, though not their content, and the status of individual cases.
That information and more will be available over the Internet.
Currently, court documents themselves aren't computer-accessible and can be viewed only by asking a clerk of courts staff member for assistance.
Once the office is online, however, documents that have been scanned into the computer system also can be accessed. That will enable Internet surfers to view facsimiles and print them if they want a hard copy. There will be no charge to the public for any of the online features, Dattilio said.
Funding: It's costing the county about $75,810 to put the clerk of courts office online.
That pays for the hardware, software, support services and other items needed to launch the Web site, Dattilio said.
Once the office is online, the county will pay about $300 a month for the Internet connections necessary to keep it running.
Money for the Internet conversion is coming from a special fund in which a percentage of court costs is allocated for technology purposes, Dattilio explained.
No money from the county's strapped general fund budget is being used for the project, he added.
Frees up staff: Putting the clerk of courts online is expected to give office staff more time for other duties, Dattilio said.
Right now, employees are frequently on the telephone answering questions about pending cases. Answers to many of those inquiries will be available once members of the public are able to check cases themselves. Dattilio said the clerk of courts office is considering conducting a public seminar to familiarize computer users with the department's Web site.