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State to modernize access to court cases

By WILLIAM F. WEST Staff Writer

The days of having to go in person to a county courthouse or to a local judicial center in North Carolina to see basic information about cases or to file cases are gradually going to become a thing of the past.

State Administrative Office of the Courts officials told the Telegram the plan is to phase in a new computer-powered system in which people are going to be able to remotely view information in real time about a case and file a case electronically.

To do this, the AOC officials said, the AOC in early June 2019 signed an approximately $86 million, 10-year contract with a Dallas-Fort Worth area based vendor, Tyler Technologies.

The AOC officials said the plan is to have the new system, called Odyssey, up and running in all 100 North Carolina counties within five years.

AOC interim Director McKinley Wooten said he believes the bottom line is this is a time in which attorneys and citizens who deal with the courts already deal with technology in other parts of their lives.

“And it is only reasonable that they should expect the same efficiency that comes with the technology in their court system,” Wooten said.

A report issued in March 2017 by the state Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice included calling for putting into place a strategic technology plan for paperless courthouses.

The report noted, “North Carolina was once a leader in using technology in its civil justice system, but today lags behind other jurisdictions.”

The report also noted the federal court system and court systems in other states, such as Utah, have a uniform and comprehensive electronic filing and document management system.

As a result, in these jurisdictions, attorneys, citizens and court officials are able to file, monitor and review cases from the convenience of their homes or offices.

The report noted electronic filing is only available in select courts in North Carolina, namely the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, the business court and in a small number of jurisdictions in the state.

State Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, in a speech to the Rocky Mount Kiwanis Club early last month, told about how antiquated the AOC computer program is at the county courthouses and at the local judicial centers.

“We are still using DOS systems,” Beasley told the gathering, noting those who worked on and repaired them are retired.

When one goes to a county courthouse or a local judicial center in North Carolina, there is a public access computer terminal to view basic information about civil cases and a public access computer terminal to view basic information about criminal cases.

And the AOC does have a statewide online link in which one can, at the public computer terminal for criminal cases, search for and view basic information about criminal cases pending in each county.

That AOC link includes the accused person’s name, the charges, the pending court date and the location where the case is going to be heard.

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