EATON — Preble County Common Pleas Court Judge Stephen Bruns and Clerk of Courts Brionne Reynolds recently announced their offices have been awarded technology grants by the Ohio Supreme Court for two different projects, totaling $167,403.78.
According to court officials, the funding for the first project will allow the two offices to adopt electronic filing, or “e-filing.”
With e-filing, litigants and attorneys will be able to submit court filings remotely, the court and the clerk will have the ability to send automated notifications of court appearances and filing deadlines, the clerk will be able to accepting payments of court costs and fines online, and all records will be available for review on the internet, officials noted in a press release.
Reynolds said she and her staff are looking forward to implementing e-filing.
“It will make it easier for people to access court records,” she said. “In effect, we will have a branch office in every home with access to the internet, and that office will be open all day, every day. Federal courts and courts in larger counties have been using e-filing for several years. However, the initial costs of implementing e-filing are so great it is difficult for smaller counties to make the change. Our offices and the people who do business with the court are going to see a big benefit, thanks to this grant.”
The second project is the installation of modern evidence presentation equipment, an improved sound system, and the capability of live-streaming court proceedings in the Preble County Common Pleas Court.
“A great deal of evidence is presented in digital formats today, such as photographs and video on smartphones, statements made on social media, and Google maps,” Judge Bruns said. “This equipment will allow us to present this evidence so it can be easily viewed by a jury, rather than having to try to pass around someone’s phone. In addition, people have always had a hard time hearing in the courtroom, and we hope to correct that with an improved amplification system. Also, the Supreme Court has been encouraging all Ohio courts to improve accessibility, including making court proceedings available online. This project provides the funding that will allow us to live-stream court hearings.”
In 2020, the court received technology grants exceeding $25,000, for several projects. Those projects included software to enhance supervision of individuals on probation, computer equipment to conduct hearings and conferences remotely, and a video system that allows the court to conduct hearings with inmates in prison throughout the state and with people being held at the Preble County Jail, greatly reducing the need for the Sheriff’s Office to transport prisoners to court, according to officials.
Bruns and Reynolds both said they appreciated the Supreme Court’s generosity and particularly Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner’s recognition of the needs of Ohio’s smaller counties.
“These projects have been part of our long-term plans for quite a while. These grants make it possible for us to implement some significant improvements in how our offices operate for the benefit of the public in 2021, instead of having to wait several years to try to find the funds locally,” Bruns said.
Both projects should be completed before the end of 2021.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 934-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr