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In Fayette County, Ky., the days when assistant prosecutors had to lug paper documents through courthouse halls are fading fast. Now, lawyers carry laptops and can access case files immediately and electronically as part of a new paperless project by the county attorney's office, an effort which could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts.

"We pay 11 cents a page every time we Xerox a piece of paper," Roberts said. "With 300 cases going on at one time every day, there's a lot of paper being printed and thrown out immediately."

In an office that handles more than 70,000 traffic cases and 50,000 criminal cases a year, the computer network and electronic databank project could cut down the amount of paper used for arraignment, pre-trial and preliminary hearing dockets, said Assistant County Attorney Lee Turpin. The project should also reduce maintenance costs of overburdened office machinery.

The project began more than a year ago as the office searched for new printers and copiers, a short-term solution to the ever-present problem of disappearing paper and dockets that include police reports, probation sheets, check information and other documents, Turpin said.

"We would average four pieces of paper for each case," she said. "That's about 500 pieces of paper for one docket. We're not a humongous office by any stretch of the imagination, but we used about a ream of paper a day for just one court docket."

The project cost $56,000, Turpin said. It was mostly funded by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government to pay for the laptops, network wiring and a special computer program. Adapted from software used by law firms that handle civil cases, the program allows the county attorney's office to file and move arraignment dockets quickly.

The county attorney's office, Roberts said, also wired the courtrooms and other rooms in the courthouse to connect the network to the office a few blocks away to give lawyers access to specific files.

"We have all the files downloaded on the computer," he said, "and any lawyer can pick it up and know exactly what the facts are in that instant."

Although it's still difficult to gauge exactly how much the county stands to save by going paperless, Roberts expects a significant financial reward, especially in comparison to the prior system.

"I think it's going to be a huge economic savings," Roberts said. "I just knew 11 cents a page was ridiculous."

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Russell Nichols

Quelle/Source: Government Technology, 22.03.2010

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