Ocean City Today

State’s attorney attempts to take office into 21st century

Records digitization project in works for old case files as part of county budget
By Brian Gilliland | May 18, 2017
Photo by: Brian Gilliland Beau Oglesby

(May 19, 2017) The advance of digital solutions to analogue problems has been transforming the way social interactions, business relationships and governmental structures have worked for decades, and as costs continue to fall for things like data storage, efficiencies continue to emerge.

The criminal justice system in Worcester, for example, continues to be heavily reliant on paper — with the exception of the courts, which have recently migrated to an online-only system. All but gone are the days when the clerk of the court hands the judge a bulging oak tag folder containing an entire case’s history and in its place is a monitor.

That change has not yet trickled down to the lawyer level, and as some court cases are months-long or even years-long affairs, the problem of what to do with it all moves to the forefront.

This year as part of ongoing budget negotiations, Beau Oglesby, Worcester’s State’s Attorney and Phil Thompson, treasurer, are hoping to partner to begin digitizing some of the old files. Part of Thompson’s staff includes a team dedicated to copying and scanning old files, and Oglesby hopes to access these employees to process some of the old case files that are overflowing filing cabinets, lining the walls and taking over precious office space.

It’s a big job, and will take considerable time to complete, but Oglesby believes the time spent will be worth it.

As it stands now, if a new filing or item needs to be added to one of his case files, Oglesby said he must either find the folder himself, or get administrative staff to pull the jacket. He can then review the document, add whatever notes or letters he needs to, and then have the file returned to its proper place. This could happen multiple times per day, in an office staffed with 10 lawyers and full caseloads.

“I really don’t need all of this,” Oglesby said holding up a two-inch thick folder with one hand, “when what I need is this,” he said, raising a two-page document to be included with the filing.

Digitizing the records would allow Oglesby, on his own, to pull up the case file, get what he needs and close it.

Oglesby said much of the paper he’s storing is redundant anyway — the case files exist elsewhere in the courts and at the various law enforcement agencies, and the only things that could be lost is the lawyer’s own work based on the files, such as notes and the like.

But the primary reason for the project isn’t speed or convenience, it’s space. The William G. Kerbin Building in Snow Hill, which opened in 2009, is running out of space.

Oglesby said by leveraging the technology that already exists, and has existed for about a decade already, he can change a 100-square-foot footprint for storage to zero square feet. Plus, the digital copies can be backed up, transferred or delivered on the fly, negating the concern of data loss should there be a fire or flood at the office.

Right now, Oglesby is preparing documents to be scanned and copied into digital files, anticipating commissioner approval on June 6, and isn’t quite sure what he’ll do with the reclaimed space.

He is certain, however, of one thing — having much more space in the office would be “a great problem to have.”

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