Lakewood Municipal Court Modernizes With Technology

Probation Department check-in kiosk located in the Court's lobby.

Modernizing the Court is a priority for me because technology brings efficiency and access to the Court. We have successfully implemented several technological advancements and I am excited to inform you about the progress. I am very pleased to announce that the Court recently launched a new website that is freshly improved, updated, and user-friendly. Navigating any website should be easy and rather intuitive, and we strived to do just that. The website contains an abundance of useful information about the types of cases that are processed and heard in the Court, FAQs, making payments online, the various departments that comprise the Court, and much more. I encourage you to take some time to check out the new website, which can be found at www.lakewoodcourtoh.gov.   

A much needed improvements were made to the Court’s Probation Department. It included implementing a new software program in 2023. The software program is an excellent source to collect data about the types of offenses committed, the Ward where the offense occurred, recidivism information and more. The new system helps the probation staff in countless ways. Probation staff are occupied conducting pre-sentence investigations, collecting information from victims including restitution, all while managing their caseloads. They are tasked with monitoring persons on probation to ensure they are complying with the Court orders issued from their sentencing. All this information, including individuals’ case history is easily searchable with the new software. In 2023, there were approximately 200 active probation cases. This is a heavy caseload for three probation staff; however, the new software is an excellent support to the Probation Department. 

Another advancement the Court made was the implementation of the Probation Department kiosk in the Court lobby. The easy to use and accessible device has simplified and streamlined the check-in procedure for individuals under the supervision of the Court. The kiosk has eliminated the monotonous paperwork that previously was required every time a probationer appeared for an appointment with their probation officer. As a result, the probation staff’s time is optimized, and they can concentrate on their client. Once a person completes the check-in questions such as contact information updates, the Probation Department staff receive a notification on their computer that the probationer is ready to be seen. Each individual checking-in receives a timestamp with the date and time for efficiency and verification. 

Moving along in our efforts to modernize the Court, we engaged in services for scanning the hundreds of thousands of civil paper documents being physically stored by the Court. Records retention rules promulgated by the Ohio Supreme Court preclude courts from ever destroying certain court documents. Other records eligible to be destroyed are subject to timelines. The physical records have outgrown the available space. Scanning the documents preserves them digitally. It also opens the door to removing the scanned documents from storage to be shredded. Not only does scanning the records free up space within the Court, but it eliminates manual searches for files that are among thousands of documents. The scanning project is an ongoing endeavor that will last several years because it is such a monumental task. The plan for 2024 is to scan years 2012 and 2013. We are hopeful to also squeeze in years 2014 and 2015. The Court was created in 1928 and there are physical records includng docket books from 1968 forward! 

Also, the Court is close to opening our Check-In/Self Help kiosk for public use and for court appearances. The hard wiring is almost complete, and the kiosk will be ready to make its debut within a few weeks. Users will be able to view FAQs, search what court forms are required for driving privileges, get assistance in filing small claims cases etc. The check-in process for court appearances will be smooth and timely. Like the Probation kiosk process, individuals checking-in will be placed in order of time of arrival and the information will be transmitted to the court staff computers. Again, this will save a lot of valuable time for staff who currently sit in the lobby to receive individuals. Once the kiosk is functional, staff can then take care of other tasks while the kiosk takes over the check-in process.   

On a final note, you may recall a previous article I wrote regarding a $425,000 grant award the Court received in 2022. At the end of this year that two year grant will close. We were able to utilize the funds for very important purposes such as to purchase the Check-In/Self Help kiosk and cover the cost of installation, desk scanners for staff in the Clerk of Court department, cover payment for the Public Defender to represent indigent defendants, laptops, and defray some of the cost for the new Court case management system. We remain grateful for the grant opportunity which greatly assisted the Court on many levels, and it is our hope to apply for future grants.

I look forward to keeping you apprised about all the good work the Court is producing and future accomplishments. You as a taxpayer should be proud of the court staff who work hard daily to serve our community. I know I am. 

Tess Neff is a 36-year Lakewood resident. She and her husband Richard chose to raise their three children in this community. She is honored to serve as the Lakwood Municipal Court Judge.  

  

Judge Tess Neff

I am a 36-year Lakewood resident and my husband Richard and I chose to raise our three children in this community. I am honored to serve as the Lakwood Municipal Court Judge.   

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Volume 20, Issue 11, Posted 12:51 PM, 06.05.2024