ABJ: Stow Municipal Court moves step closer to paperless operation

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Courthouse looks to get new case management software approved< By Gina Mace 
Special to the Beacon Journal

Published: September 27, 2014 – 12:15 AM

STOW: There should be more clicking and less shuffling in Stow Municipal Court by next summer.

Clerk of Court Kevin Coughlin said that’s the target to get new case management software up and running.

If Stow City Council approves the appropriation of just over $250,000 to CourtView Justice Solutions, a Canton software company, on Oct. 9, the process of replacing the old system will move beyond the planning stage to conversion.

“The process inside the courthouse is very antiquated,” Coughlin said. “This is a paper-based court.”

After winning his position in the November election, Coughlin walked into his new office to find paper everywhere. He also received complaints that records were hard to access from a 20-year-old website that was three or four days behind in filings and frequently crashed.

He discovered that the software that might have been cutting-edge 20 years ago was not able to keep up with the court’s needs.

“It couldn’t do a lot of things the judges wanted it to do,” Coughlin said.

Former Clerk Diana Colavecchio implemented an electronic payment system for fines during her nine months in office. But that system relied on a separate company to collect the money and a clerk being available by phone to accept it. With the new software, money will flow directly into a court PayPal account, Coughlin said.

Once the system is running, traffic tickets can be filed electronically from a police cruiser, Coughlin said. An attorney will be able to file motions from the office.

Because the system will be able to perform real-time updates, wait times of up to two hours to pay a fine no longer will be the norm, he said.

“It will increase the level of customer service and information available will be wider and more reliable,” Coughlin said. “Internally, it will totally change the work flow.”

Coughlin and Judges Lisa Coates and Kim Hoover chose CourtView Justice Solutions over four other companies that supply software for case management.

Prices for the software packages and support ranged from Courtview at $250,000 to Benchmark at just over $450,000. Coughlin said CourtView has a proven track record in Ohio, with 179 of the state’s courts using the software. The expense will be paid through fees collected in court costs for computer and technology upgrades.

“It is a good, mature system that allows us to go as paperless as we want to be,” Coughlin said.

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