PARKERSBURG - After an investigation into the filing systems in West Virginia's circuit courts found a need for a unified system, a new system has been mandated by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
According to a report from the state Supreme Court, the court has mandated the establishment of a single, unified operating system for all 55 county circuit clerk offices.
In a letter to county commissioners, Steve Canterbury, administrative director for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, said the court has decided to have all counties move to a single unified operating system. Canterbury said the system will have a positive impact on each county's budget because the high court will pay for the installation and maintenance.
Canterbury said the move to a new system is not an unfunded mandate.
"Depending on the size of your specific county, this could total tens of thousands of dollars in savings if not more," he wrote. "Also, since old files will be scanned into the electronic system and then removed from county-owned storage space, you will also ultimately find some of the costs for warehousing will become moot, giving your county more savings."
Wood County Circuit Clerk Carole Jones said Wood County, one of 14 counties that will be a pilot county for the new system, is using software from Software Systems, a Morgantown company, the vendor selected by the court.
* An investigation into filing systems in West Virginia's circuit courts found the need for a unified system.
* As a result the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has mandated the establishment of a unified filing system for all 55 circuit clerk offices.
* Supreme Court officials said the court will pay for the installation of the system and its maintenance.
* Wood County is one of 14 counties in the pilot program for the move.
"They examined 55 counties and found they were using four different systems," she said. "There will be some substantial changes, I think. For starters, we will have to do e-filing, where cases can be filed electronically, and other changes. There will have to be something set up to handle the fees."
Canterbury said when the system is rolled out attorneys will be required to learn how to use the filing system; however, self-represented litigants will be encouraged to file electronically but will be allowed to file by paper with the clerk's staff converting the paper filing to the electronic format.
Jones said the change will be implemented over the next three to four years. Two counties allow the use of credit cards or debit cards for payment, but Wood County is not one of those counties, she said.
"In the past that was not allowed but the Legislature changed the law to allow it," she said. "If a county wants to do that they have to bid it out, but if a county office were using it, other offices could use the same system without bidding it out."
Jones said the local circuit court upgraded its system a few years ago and she is looking forward to the changes.
"One thing I'm most excited about is we may be able to have scanning of documents," she said. "That's supposed to be part of it."
Jones said the county would have more space open for storage.
Other counties in the pilot program will be Berkeley, Braxton, Cabell, Hampshire, Harrison, Jefferson, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Morgan, Ohio, Randolph and Upshur.
Canterbury said a separate company, On-Line Information Services Inc. of Mobile, Ala., will partner with Software Systems to provide e-filing and ultimately electronic bill-paying for the pilot program. He said the court approved the creation of a Division of Circuit Clerk Services to deal specifically with the building and maintenance of a unified system and other matters regarding circuit court clerk offices.