Sunday, July 16, 2000

Butler Co. court data on the Net

Clerk hopes for state links

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Lawyers, judges, police, researchers and citizens now may access summaries of many Butler County court records via the Internet — a result of years of work.

        Clerk of Courts Cindy Carpenter said she is among a handful of court clerks in the United States who have made their public information available via the Net.

        Among the records now accessible at criminal felonies, civil cases over $15,000, domestic relations, 12th District Court of Appeals, state tax liens and judgment liens.

        Ms. Carpenter, who took office in 1987, wants to link all components of the county criminal justice system with each other and, eventually, to others throughout Ohio. Recently, the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association named Ms. Carpenter its representative to the new Court Technology Committee of the Ohio Supreme Court's Futures Commission. The committee intends to establish uniform standards for Ohio courts, “so that all hardware and software used in the judicial system is compatible and can be linked (statewide),” a news release says.

        Other improvements to the Butler clerk's Internet system are coming soon, Ms. Carpenter said. Users will be able to view actual documents, thanks to a “document imaging” feature. Attorneys may soon file records electronically and pay for those filings online with credit cards. And citizens should be able to file car titles electronically.

        Computerization of Butler County's justice information has been bogged down with controversy and problems.

        The county spent $1.4 million on a failed system before Ms. Carpenter, frustrated by the delays by a company that was under contract to the county, obtained a court order allowing her to buy a software package from a different company. She implemented it last year.

        Ms. Carpenter said the new system paves the way for links with judges' offices, the prosecutor's office, the sheriff's and probation departments, and possibly other police agencies in the county.


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