Courtroom of the Athens County Municipal Court
Courtroom of the Athens County Municipal Court. [File Photo]

Athens County Courts Receive Grants, Technological Upgrades

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ATHENS — The Athens County Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court received grants Wednesday totaling nearly $150,000, intended to improve technology within the courts.

The grants were awarded through the Ohio Court Technology Initiative, a grant program instituted by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and the Ohio Supreme Court in 2014. The money comes from the high court’s overall budget, dispersed by the state.

“These are dollars that I have not earmarked for a purpose within the Supreme Court’s operation, and rather than returning them to the (State of Ohio) General Fund, as would be done at the end of the budget cycle, I decided four years ago that the locals could use these dollars,” O’Connor said during a Wednesday visit to the Athens County courts.

The grant will foot the bill for a new management system that allows for e-filing of documents and e-payments in court cases. O’Connor and Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy, along with Probate/Juvenile Judge Robert Stewart, said this effort would continue to bring the court systems into modern times. Future upgrades will hopefully include apps to remind defendants of court dates, and other advances to the court management system, they said.

“The ability for the courts to talk to one another, and talk to law enforcement, and all of the information and the data be available to the police, the courts, probation, treatment centers that are involved with defendants,
O’Connor said. “It’s just vital.”

Common Pleas Court Clerk Ann Trout said the new system will take a lot of weight off of her employees, especially the volume of phone calls her office receives about cases.

“This allows people to file documents, and they don’t have to come to the courthouse to pay bills, it’s going to be a great thing,” Trout said.

The awards were a portion of the $2.9 million that has been given by the Supreme Court to local courts for projects including case management upgrades and public online access to records.

Projects considered by the Supreme Court for the grants are given priority when they include technology upgrades or security upgrades.