Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Black Hawk County, Iowa, will soon be using the Internet for more than shopping.
The county recently switched over to a content management system meant to reduce the court system's use of paper, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier noted. This isn't new for the state of Iowa. The state's document management software has been making its way across the state in a wave from west to east. Right now the many of the counties in the state have switched over to an electronic system.
As of last year, 40 percent of court documents in the state were filed electronically, according to the Sioux City Journal. And the software is fast making its way across the state.
The first electronic document was filed in 2010, and since then counties have adopted the system quickly, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier explained. In 2013, 28 counties implemented the document management software. Thus far in 2014, 17 more have done the same. Another 10 are currently in the implementation process. By 2015 all counties in Iowa are projected to be paperless.
It has been nearly five years since the system first made its way into Iowa courts, and so far it seems to have helped.
"It's definitely made it easier because everyone sees the document, so someone can't say they didn't get it," Rhonda Henning, a paralegal at Buckmeier & Daane Lawyers PC in Sioux City, told the Sioux City Journal. "I think it makes us more efficient because we can all log in and see the same thing."
How document management software is improving Iowa courts
Paperless systems make collaborative work much easier through real time, simultaneous viewing options available from anywhere, at anytime. Users logged into the same content management system can make revisions that are instantly viewable by others with the same document open. This way persons can collaborate on file edits from across the state if they had to.
This is important because no longer will physical documents get lost when transitioning between people or offices, the Sioux City Journal wrote. In some counties it had once taken days – even weeks – to file documents. Now it typically happens in an instant, greatly enhancing the court system's efficiency.
Right now criminal cases are fully operational within Black Hawk's system, with civil cases coming later in the month, reported the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.
"Electronic document management system has already resulted in tremendous efficiencies for court users by allowing parties to file documents electronically without the need to travel to a clerk of court office," Steve Davis, a spokesman for the Iowa Judicial Branch, told the publication.
The average resident of Black Hawk County will see fewer changes, though some processes may be different. Some minor things will be switched over to the computer for those not directly involved in the county court system. Those who wish to file mall claims actions will do so over the computer, rather than filling out forms. Also, people who intend to view a court file will now be guided to a computer terminal instead of being handed a folder of documents.
Not only do electronic filing systems ensure that documents aren't lost, and that processes move quicker, they also have a cost savings element to them. While it will take some funds to implement a document storage system, over time a return on investment is very likely. This way counties aren't just streamlining operations, they're also saving money.
"The work we're doing is now more meaningful. We're no longer chasing papers," Leesa McNeil, 3rd District Court Administrator, told the Sioux City Journal. "We're able to help the public more rapidly because the file is always in front of us."
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