Technology helps clerk keep lid on staff size
The wheels of justice turn slowly. Yet, each metaphorical degree of rotation produces myriad documents that must by law be collected, filed and made available to the public and to government agencies.
Joel Kagann, clerk of the 18th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois, and his staff handle 8,000 documents daily, an average of 12,000 pages.
For the past two decades, DuPage County, which is home to the 18th Circuit Court, was the fastest-growing suburban area in Chicago. The rapid influx of new residents and businesses placed great additional demand on the circuit court clerk.
Despite the continuing growth, Kagann has reined in the office payroll through the use of technology. The number of employees has remained steady, due largely to the implementation of an electronic imaging system.
Without it and other data processing advances, Kagann estimates that the office would require 300 workers to NO workers today.
In the past, it typically took eight days to 14 days for a document to be categorized by case type, indexed, filmed, filed and made available for public inspection. Now, documents are available on line within three days of their receipt.
Before, documents had to be captured on microfilm, which would be inserted in jackets. Because only one category of cases was placed in each jacket, keeping the original documents on file was creating a storage challenge.
After the court moved into a new building, the staff implemented an optical-disk document storage system based on the electronic imaging system. Documents were scanned immediately and stored electronically as digitized files on 12-inch optical disks. Originally, the system suffered from a bottleneck. The clerk’s office used a tabletop flatbed scanner that could scan only a half dozen documents per minute. Keeping up with 12,000 pages per day was a major challenge. The office invested in a high-speed alternative, the Kodak Imagelink scanner/microimager 990D, which scans up to 120 documents per minute and converts them to microfilms in a single pass.
The price of the scanner/microimager is of as much concern to the court clerk as the cost of labor.
“Whatever salary we pay a deputy, we have to add 45 percent to that amount to cover benefits,” Kagann explains. “By not having to hire two or three new people every time our scanning requirements increase, the capital investment in new technology is recouped quickly.”