West Virginia’s Ohio County Circuit Court is leading the way when it comes to the paperless revolution.
The paperless office has long been the dream of technologists, and businesses and workers are finally starting to move away from paper with the rise of the cloud, the smartphone, and easy scanning and retrieval technology.
Ohio County is one of 14 West Virginia counties selected by the state’s Supreme Court to implement a paperless court. That means everything must be digital – a tall order for a branch of government known for its paper trail.
"Within the next six months to a year we'll be totally paperless," said Brenda Miller, the clerk for the Ohio County Circuit Court. The move, she said, “will totally change how a circuit clerk's office is run.”
There are two steps to any paperless office initiative. First, existing documents must become digital. Then, there must be a system to ensure that all new documents arrive in a digital form.
On the scanning existing documents side, the clerk’s office has been scanning and uploading every piece of paper that has come into the office for more than a year now. With spare time, the court is scanning files in reverse chronological order. So far, they are back to 2010.
"It's a massive undertaking," acknowledged Miller, “but I'm very happy and proud to oversee all of this and be a part of this major project.”
The less tedious and more interesting step is getting rid of new paper coming into the office.
They key is making sure that every paper-generating activity has a digital equivalent. For fax, for instance, IP fax can be used instead to have faxes come in digitally. For mail, there is e-mail. For legal briefs—well, even that has a digital equivalent.
Now attorneys file motions electronically from their office using their state bar membership number. New cases are required to be filed online, with the filing fee being by credit card.
Everything must come in digitally, receipts and all.
Circuit court judges will receive personal laptops, according to Miller, from which they can access and review the case files during court hearings. This helps avoid having to print out electronic documents.
Overall, the project is expected to cost Ohio County $250,000, which is paid by the state’s Supreme Court.
Edited by Blaise McNamee