Champaign County residents now can gather information related to the Champaign County Common Pleas Court through the court’s website.
Common Pleas Court Judge Nick Selvaggio said the website, which launched in July, is a compilation of the court having an online presence while being able to bring better public access to court implemented projects. The website is located at champaigncourt.org.
“I’m very happy with the site because it’s not very complex and people can instantly get their information,” Selvaggio said.
While establishing the website, Selvaggio said, the court wanted to identify three or four areas where the court could make an impactful statement on the public’s need for information. The areas primarily featured on the website currently include notary public information, local court rules and jury service notifications.
In June, the court announced a written examination would be required as part of the application process for notary publics starting in July. Champaign County was one of the few counties in the state that did not require applicants to undergo some type of written examination process prior to this change.
While implementing these changes, Selvaggio said, the website has given the court the ability to place important information online including notary public applications, a handbook that serves as a study guide for the written exam and a frequently asked questions document for notary public commissions.
Selvaggio said placing this information online has decreased the examination fee to $20. Applicants still will pay an additional $15 fee made payable to the Ohio Secretary of State.
Speaking on the local court rules, Selvaggio said the rules are broken down to eight chapters dealing with court administration, the clerk of courts, the practice of civil and criminal cases, record retention and other areas. He added the rules give more formal structure to how the court operates.
“One of the motivating factors for wanting local rules is that particularly on the criminal side – but even on the civil side – we’ve seen an increase in out of town counsel and I found myself repeating myself more times because with the higher frequency of out of town council they didn’t have familiarity with how we kind of did things in Champaign County,” Selvaggio said. “Now everybody has the same understanding of what our policies and procedures are.”
Updates for jurors now available
The website also provides updates for jurors regarding the status of upcoming court proceedings. On the website’s front page, jurors are able to see if court has been canceled due to weather or other reasons.
“I wanted some mechanism where in today’s smartphone age people can just check their smartphone to see if we’re still having court,” Selvaggio said. “I don’t want people to have to go to the TV and wait for the (severe weather) scroll – that’s just a waste of their time. I or my court administrator can update that from the privacy of our own mobile device.”
The ability to inform jurors of cancellations on the website was helpful last week when a resolution was reached in a criminal case days before a jury trial was scheduled.
“We had a jury that was scheduled for the day after Labor Day,” Selvaggio said. “On Friday at 3:30 p.m., the lawyers told me that we had the case resolved so I was able to post on the website that the trial was cancelled on Friday at like 3:35 p.m.”
Selvaggio noted of the 40 people who were scheduled to appear in court, only two did not check the website and appeared in court. He said the court is trying to drive people to a web-based presence to increase the user’s convenience and access while decreasing the court’s involvement in answering common questions.
An area of the website that Selvaggio said is underdeveloped is court records. The court was informed in June that an attempt to obtain a technology grant to fund the necessary equipment and support to place civil and criminal case records online was unsuccessful.
Selvaggio said he is looking at alternative funding sources and could use special project funds to fund this service.
Another area Selvaggio said the court wants to continue developing is its probation department. This year, the court was able to renovate the probation department offices, which are located in the basement of the courthouse.
Selvaggio thanked Champaign County commissioners for funding the renovations, which allow for more individual offices instead of cubicles. The court was also able to purchase a new filing system to help the department organize files.
In the future, Selvaggio said, the court is looking at implementing electronic filing, already in use in other counties in the state. He said this technology would allow parties and litigants to electronically file documents with the court opposed to taking them to the clerk of court’s office.
“The benefits of electronic filing are that you get instantaneous results,” Selvaggio said.