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Politics & Government

PA Court Records to Enter 21st Century

Currently most Pennsylvanians who want to see court records and documents have to look at them on microfilm or microfiche.

“We’ve always got to look at ways we can modernize government,” says State Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) as he noted Governor Corbett’s signing into law his court modernizing proposal that he says will save tax dollars and give the public easier access to court records.

The legislation expands the authorized methods of storing judicial records to include optical imaging, in which data is scanned and stored electronically.  “This would allow for much greater ease of access for taxpayers,” Smith says. “It’s a way we can bring state government and county government into the 21st century.”

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was consulted to ensure that judicial records will be properly preserved.  “By allowing courts to make the switch and utilize current and future technological best practices, we will save taxpayer dollars,” Smith said.

The legislation received the backing of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald according to Smith.  “Allegheny County has estimated that it would save $230,000 in storage costs and that figure would grow considering the benefit of not having to pursue additional storage in the future.”

Smith’s measure was amended into House legislation (HB 1337) which increases state funding for legal services for low income residents dealing with issues ranging from domestic violence to loss of housing to custody disputes.

“It’s a really key issue because it’s something we’ve got to focus on and make sure individuals have access to legal services that are very integral to their day-to-day lives in many cases.”

The law, which takes effect August 8, increases a court surcharge  from $1 to $2 per case to help pay for the increase in funding for legal services for the poor.