The Ottumwa Courier

December 2, 2013

Iowa's courts changing over to electronic records


Ottumwa Courier

---- — SIOUX CITY (AP) — Forty-three of Iowa’s 99 counties will be using electronic court records by the end of the year, and about 40 percent of all state court documents are now being filed electronically.

Associate Judge John Nelson said he believes the positives of electronic records have outweighed the bad aspects since the switch began in 2010, The Sioux City Journal reported.

“I think it has some really good attributes and some bad attributes. I don’t know if we’ll know for a while if the good outweigh the bad,” Nelson said.

The new system makes it possible to file documents at all hours and lets several people read the same file at once.

“It really has opened the door for people to do work when it’s convenient for them, not convenient for the court,” said Leesa McNeil, 3rd District Court administrator.

But the electronic filing system can be cumbersome, especially for people who don’t use it every day.

Sioux City landlord Brad Bergstrom said it was easier to hand a form to a clerk when he had to file small-claims cases against tenants.

“I’ve used it, but it’s not very user-friendly. It’s not something you can pick up,” he said

State Court Administrator David Boyd said the electronic filing system will continue to be improved as it is installed in more counties. Even if the system may not be user-friendly, Boyd said it has helped courts become more efficient.

“In some counties, we were at the point where there could be several days, in some cases several weeks, between the time something was filed and the time it actually got placed in the file,” Boyd said.

Rhonda Henning, a paralegal at Buckmeier & Daane Lawyers PC in Sioux City, said the electronic system eliminates excuses about records being lost in the mail or failing to be faxed in.

“It’s definitely made it easier because everyone sees the document, so someone can’t say they didn’t get it,” Henning said. “I think it makes us more efficient because we can all log in and see the same thing.”