Let's get digital

The Madison County Record Dec. 4, 2005, 5:08am

The courthouse can be a mysterious place. And that’s not just here; not just for us.

Complaints, motions, rulings, opinions, settlements— they all occur, every day, like trees falling in a lonely forest. In most Illinois counties, only the parties involved are usually paying attention. Not that the rest of us could even if we felt the need.

That we felt the need here is somewhat of an anomaly. The Record tries to keep tabs on those courthouse things so that when a tree falls, the public hears about it. We report news daily and as such, Madison and St. Clair County residents can stay more in-the-know than their counterparts elsewhere across the state.

Still, in the public’s true interest, our selected coverage will never be enough.

It’s about time our state’s justice system got with it, requiring the posting of crucial county court information in a timely basis on the Internet for everyone to see.

Technology can prevent our public servants from operating in the dark. It pushes information out of the brick-and-mortar shadows and into the sunlight.

The people have always had a right-to-know. Now finally, thanks to Google and its brethren, they practically can. We shouldn't waste the opportunity.

Here in the Third Circuit, we’re leaps and bounds more tech-savvy than other courthouses in Illinois. Madison County posts its dockets on the Web and allows access to basic case information via a pay-per-view service to which we subscribe.

We commend our county clerks on their digital initiative, though such an honor is akin to being known as the tallest midget.

Most county courthouses don’t post any information on their web sites. Information flow always requires tree-killing and never comes easy. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Federal courts allow electronic filing because it saves everyone money and time. It’s time our state system did as well. The State Supreme Court—- in charge of such things- —can drive this process and should.

We like our pole position. But information flow from our justice system shouldn’t freeze up when Steve Gonzalez has a sick day.

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