Courts embrace digital records with cautious optimism
With potential benefits ranging from reduced operating expenses to environmental sustainability looming on the horizon, it is no surprise that more organizations are talking about moving from paper-based to digital business processes. But before initiating a fundamental change to records management systems and practices, administrators must consider the unique risks that apply to their workloads. This balancing act between innovation and security is currently being put into perspective as more court systems explore the merits of digital filing solutions.
The benefits of a revitalized records management system have not been lost on court clerks, and digital discussions are already taking place at the highest levels. The Wyoming Supreme Court, for example, is well on its way toward not only implementing, but optimizing its electronic filing system. E-filing became mandatory for the jurisdiction in 2008, and the digital filing system now contains docket pages from 2006 to the present.
According to Supreme Court clerk Carol Thompson, the advantages of this approach are myriad. In an interview with the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, she noted the significance of the simplified, expanded access to records offered by document digitization. Instead of making a special trip to the Supreme Court building, citizens and litigators can search and retrieve records on their own and around the clock online. By sorting files in terms of everything from data and case number to the names of parties involved, the digital database has made document retrieval easier than ever before.
Taking paper out of the equation also has benefits that extend far beyond simple convenience.
"A significant factor in the costing of somebody's divorce through the court system is the tremendous amount of paperwork involved," attorney Steven Benmor told the Financial Post. "Digitization would be the friend of the divorcee and the friend of the divorce lawyer, not the enemy. On the contrary, we're spending way too much money not being able to achieve the goals of clients because we're bogged down with the process."
Still, there are some very legitimate obstacles standing in the way of all out investment in digital records management systems. For one, there are the confidentiality concerns that seem to arise from any computer-based network.
Laramie County District Court clerk Sandy Landers told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle that she was concerned about her jurisdiction adopting digital filing solutions due to the technological learning curve. While her colleagues are still getting up to speed, everything from credit card numbers to adoption records could be exposed either accidentally or via a cybercriminal breach.