The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

February 3, 2014

Electronic court filing may bring problems

Knoxville — In March, Marion County's court records will transfer from their current paper forms to strictly electronic. County Attorney Ed Bull says he has heard horror stories from counties that have already made the switch. 

The new system is Electronic Data Management System, or EDMS. One of Bull's concerns is additional staff time necessary to enter data regarding court cases. Currently, when a case is filed, the Clerk of Court office (Clerks are State of Iowa employees. Those in the County Attorney's Office are Marion County employees.) does the necessary data entry to open the case. This burden will befall the County Attorney's Office when EDMS is implemented. 

Polk County has already made the transition. Bull attended a meeting last Friday for juvenile practicioners during a legislative session for the Iowa Association of County Attorneys. One of the topics was EDMS. There were 14 County Attorneys, or Assistant County Attorneys in the room, and none of them had any positive words for EDMS, according to Bull. 

Bull said he has learned that Polk County, which has a larger volume of cases and more attorneys working for it, has hired seven data entry employees. Two attorneys within the office, who primarily handled trials, have been transfered to EDMS managers. The office estimates that each new case filing will take an extra 15 minutes with EDMS. 

Bull estimates that if this true, based upon his office's current volume of cases, EDMS will burden his office with another 900 hours of work each year. The time is not Bull's only concern. 

Whenever someone within the County Attorney's Office files a document through EDMS, that person will receive four e-mails in return. Bull's understanding is that e-mail will also be the only notification his office will receive when a criminal defendant has filed paperwork related to the case. Therefore, he cannot just delete each of these messages without looking at them. 

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