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Polk County: A Dozen Years and Still Going Strong
More than a dozen years ago, Richard Weiss, Polk County, Florida, Clerk of Courts, was frantically looking for a way to replace his paper-based civil court system. He and his staff were trying to manage some 30,000 cases a year, indexing, storing, tracking and making available to the public the growing load virtually all by hand. Technology clearly was the answer, but he had questions: What technology? At what cost? Could the technology adapt to changing needs, or would it prove to be a dead end? And how about training and service?

Today, Polk County – working closely with NewVision Systems --is a leader in utilizing technology to make court documents instantly available to judges, attorneys and the public. And those 30,000 cases have nearly doubled.

The system features a searchable index of all cases filed with the court, linked to scanned images of court filings. The images are available to judges and attorneys simultaneously, and they can be accessed from virtually any location via a county intranet.

Questions answered online, not on the phone
The clerk’s office used to get literally thousands of calls a month from lawyers and others with routine questions. Today, there are few calls because the information is available online.

“Ten years ago, we were among the pioneers,” Weiss says. “Today, technology is a given in many court systems throughout the country. However, we’re fortunate because we chose a system that has proved so adaptable that we can add applications as needed, which is precisely what we have continued to do.”

The juvenile dependency system is a good example of the effective way NewVision works with its clients. After an initial study indicated that the juvenile process needed streamlining, existing operations were documented, reviewed and analyzed to determine the impact a new system could achieve in terms of expediting cases, cutting costs, enhancing accuracy and other key measures. The system went live in late 2007, just 13 months after the initial study was completed. A Collections module is in the process of being added.

Comprehensive County-wide Civil and Criminal System
Weiss, his staff and NewVision are hard at work now on a comprehensive Criminal Court Management System. NewVision conducted an operational study for five core criminal case management areas – Circuit Criminal (felony and county court appeals), County Criminal (misdemeanor and civil penalties), Pre-trial, Probation and Traffic Infractions. Criminal court indexes were recently made available to the public, including felonies back to 1991.

“We’re just a few months from having a single, comprehensive, image-based countywide system, Weiss says. “Digital images of all documents will be available online literally at the fingertips of attorneys, judges and court-related agencies. Most are available today, and it has accelerated the movement of cases through the courts.”

Weiss believed years ago that he would have to continue to add staff just to keep up with his expanding case load and the paper it produced. His staff today has not increased in proportion to cases added because, he says, “technology has made us dramatically more efficient.”

Weiss says he’s not finished yet. With identification theft becoming a significant problem, he is working with NewVision on redaction. He’s also partnering with NewVision to identify requirements for disaster prevention and recovery.

“The world has changed radically in the past decade, and we’ve been fortunate to have a partner in NewVision that has developed systems and processes that have enabled us to stay ahead of the curve. It’s a great relationship that’s paid off for those of us in the courts and the citizens of Polk County.”

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