WHEELING - The Ohio County Circuit Clerk's Office is in the midst of a digital makeover which, according to Circuit Clerk Brenda Miller, "will totally change how a circuit clerk's office is run."
Ohio County was one of 14 West Virginia counties selected by the state Supreme Court to undergo an e-filing overhaul in which all of their hard copy case files will be digitized and stored electronically.
"Within the next six months to a year we'll be totally paperless," Miller said.
Photo by Tyler Reynard
Ohio County Circuit Clerk Brenda Miller stands nearby as Freda Kasarda scans a document into the office’s new paperless e-filing system.
Office employees have been scanning and uploading every piece of paper that has come into the office over the past year. When they have extra time, employees scan case files in reverse chronological order. They have made it back to around 2010, with "many years" to go, Miller said with a chuckle.
"It's a massive undertaking," she acknowledged, "but I'm very happy and proud to oversee all of this and be a part of this major project."
The process began by pulling documents from the 1800s - some cases which precede West Virginia's statehood - out of storage, Miller said. The office staff placed those documents onto microfilm and uploaded them for online access.
Attorneys can file motions electronically from their office using their state bar membership number. Anyone wishing to file a new case will do so online, and pay the filing fee via credit card. Those documents can then be accessed and viewed online by anyone.
"A circuit clerk's office is the record keeper for a county," Miller said. "I think having records that are easily accessible to the public is the key factor to providing quality service."
Private documents, such as filings from juvenile proceedings or anything ordered sealed by a judge, such as medical records, will remain inaccessible to the general public.
Gone will be the large cabinet files stocked with seemingly endless rows of red folders.
Additionally, circuit court judges will receive personal laptops on which they can access and review the case file from the bench during a court hearing.
Miller estimated it will cost around $250,000 - paid by the Supreme Court - to implement the system in Ohio County. That includes the price of hardware and software for both the computer system and the e-filing system, as well as training for the office staff.
The staff will travel to Morgantown in two groups for training seminars. Miller said half of the process is preparation, so there is a seamless transition from the hard copy filing system to the paperless one.
"This is going to totally change the course of history in the court system in West Virginia," she said, "and Ohio County is going to be one of the first to do it."