The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

July 30, 2013

We can’t wait for linked filing system database for state’s online documents

We welcome one state lawmaker’s desire to standardize online access for Oklahoma’s court records.

Rep. Aaron Stiles, a Norman attorney and vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is frustrated by the state’s hodgepodge of procedures for making court records publicly available online, according to The Associated Press.

Since court clerks in the state’s various counties have differing policies for scanning court documents and making them available online, individuals sometimes are forced to visit courthouses to pay for copies of information that should be available electronically.

“It’s not consistent across the counties as to what information is available,” Stiles, R-Norman, told AP. “There’s no rhyme or reason as to what is put on there and what isn’t.”

We hope those inconsistencies disappear when a $13 million project developing a filing system database is implemented by the state. Theoretically, this streamlining would make documents available online in all of the state’s 77 counties.

Michael Evans, the administrative director of the courts who is overseeing the project, told AP the pilot program should launch this fall in Noble County and in Logan County by the spring. Payne, Pottawatomie, and then Tulsa and Oklahoma counties will follow before a statewide rollout.

“Obviously, we’re building this system because there’s a need of judges, clerks and lawyers and so forth,” Evans told AP. “But the most satisfying thing for me once we finish this is what it will do for the public.”

Evans said Oklahoma’s 13 larger counties and the appellate courts are on the Oklahoma State Court Network, and the rest of the counties on the On Demand Court Records system developed by Duncan, Okla.-based KellPro.

The project’s final launch date is anybody’s guess, but we can’t wait for a less frustrating experience.

We believe the court system was designed to serve the public, all Oklahomans, and criminal cases need to remain open and transparent.

We believe the courts were created to be a branch of state government, public and open, and ultimately accountable to voters.

With openness, Oklahomans can have greater confidence in their court system. And the information should be easily accessible for all.

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