Web-accessible court records still not reality

Monday, December 20th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The kinks have yet to be worked out of a new Y2K-compliant computerized court record system, even with eight of the state's largest counties facing a Jan. 1 deadline to replace the old system. Tulsa County has been testing the new Oklahoma Court Information System and reports that at times it has been unable to call up indexed records.

"I want to spoil everybody who comes through the doors, and we have not been able to do that," Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith told the Tulsa World for a story today. "We've not been able to truly function." The latest problem came last week after some civil court records were transferred into the new system and could not be accessed.

Ms. Smith expects computer access to be restored this week but she said Sunday that more problems are likely before the system is perfect. Howard Conyers, state administrative director of the court, said there's no choice but to junk the old system. It has limped along since an October breakdown and also is not Y2K compliant. That means the system could read the wrong date on Jan. 1 and begin mangling court records.

In addition to Tulsa, the old system serves Oklahoma, Rogers, Payne, Garfield, Cleveland, Canadian and Comanche counties. "Those implementations will go smoother because we'll have worked out all the bugs" in Tulsa County, Conyers said.

The new system, when expanded to all 77 counties, will offer Internet access to court records. It is intended to be the first fully integrated statewide court computer system in the United States. Planners for the switch decided to make Tulsa County the testing ground because of Ms. Smith's technological savvy. "She's the logical one to be the guinea pig," Conyers said.

Ms. Smith and Conyers emphasized that no court records have been lost. The court clerk's office still has paper records on every transaction. But with the massive amount of records handled everyday, "this is not a luxury, but a necessity," Ms. Smith said. The system was built with money from the court clerks' offices, a $3.2 million rainy-day fund appropriation from the 1998 Oklahoma Legislature and another state appropriation this year, Conyers said. Full statewide implementation is not expected to be completed until July 2001.