While Cook County is still in the early 1990s, and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown is considering making records online available at an exorbitant cost, her counterpart in Lake County, Keith Brin, is getting ready to introduce online access to court records, free.
According to Danielle Gensberg in the Chicago Tribune:
Moving forward in a digital age, Lake County’s Circuit Court office has developed its first software program to give the public online access to court records and information.
“You will be able to search case information by a person’s name, the company’s name, case number and various other identifiers,” said Keith Brin, Lake County Clerk of the Circuit Court. “It will give you enough information to cover a large chunk of the inquiries and phone calls we receive in our office.”
All criminal, civil and traffic cases that would normally be publicly available now will be available electronically 24 hours a day, said Brin. He estimated the system would be up and running within the next 30-60 days.
The two-fold software program also contains an electronic filing system developed by Brin and his team, something he said was created without taxpayer funds.
People can register with a user name and password to file pleadings, complaints, motions and scheduling documents, look at case materials, get copies of documents and complete a variety of other tasks related to civil cases.
“The electronic filing system essentially allows all of the same interactions that could occur on a case if you were standing at one of our counters,” Brin said.
Using a data exchange model, all data entered into the electronic filing system is stored so that no information needs to be re-entered, he said.
“Because we break everything into data, it’s usable by the office here and down the line,” Brin said. “The data can be re-displayed on public access terminals, for judges at the bench on summary screens, or for when reporters are coming.”
No additional fees are required to use the new software, he said, aside from those already set by various statutes.
“Public access is absolutely free,” Brin said. “The only fees are the exact same cost and fees that you would expect to pay if you were at the counter and not using the electronic filing system.”…
Other court systems outside of Lake County have already shown an interest in the software, said Brin, who believes this technology can be expanded to just about every area in the court system.
After receiving final approval from Lake County’s chief judge, judiciary and the county board in March, Brin plans to go live with the more complex electronic filing portion of the system in six months.
“We’re trying to create an environment in our court system that provides better access to information, that doesn’t rely on people to be there, that proves accurate and secure, and takes our court system and everything attached to it to the next technological generation,” he said.
Isn’t it great when public officials make public records available to the public?