Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Clerk Of The Circuit Court's Message: A Paperless Office

By Pat Frank

When I first took office as clerk of the circuit court in January 2005, I pledged to make it my goal to transition from mounds of paper to a paperless system.  We have been moving steadily toward attaining that goal, and now, it truly is in sight.

This is a monumental achievement for our paper-filled office.  To put it in perspective, if you ever visited the Empire State Building in New York City and were awestruck by its height, it’s nothing compared to our paper piles here.  If we took all of the paper court records from the clerk’s office and placed them in a stack – they would not only exceed the height of the Empire State Building – you would actually need to stack 57 more Empire State Buildings on top of one another to surpass the height of all of our paper court records!  And the Empire State Building reaches 1,454 feet into the sky.

Our transition to e-Filing is the natural transition to a paperless system.  The paper that comes in is digitized within our Odyssey Case Maintenance System.  Thus, the official court record will be in electronic form, with only select paper documents retained in compliance with court rules of procedure.

Our big jump in that direction came when we instituted a new system known as CRIBS – Clerks Reactive Intelligent Back Scanning System.  The software for CRIBS was actually developed in-house by our own IT shop.  The software permits the automated examination of the Odyssey case progress docket for case events that do not have an electronic image associated to them. 

This is how CRIBS works: The software generates an intelligent separator sheet, which contains a barcode for each document that must be imaged.  This intelligent separator sheet is placed on top of the document to be imaged.  Once the document is scanned, it is passed through OCR processing in order to create a text-searchable document and is placed sequentially through multiple layers of quality control.  Once completed, the image is then automatically linked to the appropriate case and case event.    

CRIBS software is being piloted in the Circuit Civil Division – Mortgage Foreclosure Division M.  The judge in that division will use only electronic case files through the Thirteenth Judicial Automated Workflow System (JAWS) and alleviate the need for the department to provide a paper court file.  Once the CRIBS software passes through the pilot test, we will work closely with the court administrator to identify other opportunities for the deployment of this software.  Together, we will identify the divisions that provide the greatest opportunities for the overall back scanning of paper court files.

The good news about CRIBS is that it is scalable and can be applied to other areas in our court system. Paper is definitely an endangered species in the clerk’s office.