Clerk of courts looks to mod­ern­ize, cut costs

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter To con­tact Chester County reporter Michael P. Rel­la­han, call 610-6961544.

Be­fore Yolanda Van de Krol was elected, she was slightly mys­ti­fied about what, ex­actly, the clerk of courts did.

WEST CHESTER » Be­fore Yolanda Van de Krol was elected Chester County Clerk of Courts in Novem­ber 2017, she was like most of her neigh­bors — slightly mys­ti­fied about what, ex­actly, the clerk of courts did.

Since tak­ing of­fice, Van De Krol has taken it upon her­self and her of­fice not only to in­form the pub­lic about what the of­fice func­tions are, but to make it eas­ier for peo­ple who come in con­tact with the court sys­tem to nav­i­gate its var­i­ous pas­sages and by­ways.

Within the past sev­eral weeks, Van de Krol’s and her staff have up­graded the of­fice’s web­site on www. chesco.org, mak­ing forms and steps avail­able for peo­ple who need to ac­cess the sys­tem, and pre­par­ing the way for a switch to an in­ter­net based, e-fil­ing sys­tem that she fore­sees saving not only time but money.

“We have a nice long list of things we want to do to make the of­fice more ef­fi­cient and to save tax dol­lars,” Van de Krol said in an in­ter­view last week. “There is a lot of mis­con­cep­tion about what we do, so we want to go about help­ing peo­ple who have to use the sys­tem.”

For those who don’t know, the Clerk of Courts man­ages all pa­per­work for all crim­i­nal cases in the county Court of Com­mon Pleas, un­like the county Prothono­tary, which han­dles those fil­ing as­so­ci­ated with civil cases. If you are ap­peal­ing a speed­ing ticket from a Dis­trict Court hear­ing, want to erase the records of that pesky drunk driv­ing charge you got seven years ago, or — heaven for­bid — are fac­ing felony charges, the Clerk of Courts is where all records come and go.

The clerk’s of­fice also as­sesses fines, costs and resti­tu­tion and col­lects the fees in con­junc­tion with the Chester County Adult Pro­ba­tion and Pa­role Depart­ment. The of­fice staffs all crim­i­nal, ju­ve­nile and de­pen­dency hear­ings held in Com­mon Pleas Court to en­sure that the pa­per­work is com­pleted with ef­fi­ciency and ac­cu­racy. Ask any pros­e­cu­tor, de­fense at­tor­ney, or judge and they will tell you those from the clerks’ of­fice play an in­dis­pens­able role in the county crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Van de Krol wanted first to up­grade the of­fice’s web site to make cer­tain peo­ple had the chance to get their ques­tions about how to do some­thing like file a re­quest for an ex­punge­ment an­swered as quickly as pos­si­ble. Not only would that help the pub­lic, she knew, but it would also free up the time her staff mem­bers spend on the phone ex­plain­ing things.

“We make things very ex­plicit on the web site,” she said of the changes that have been in­sti­tuted. “Ev­ery­one’s ques­tions should be an­swered if they go to the web­site.”

More than that change, Van deKrol de­cided to be­gin the process of al­low­ing at­tor­neys and par­ties to file pa­per­work elec­tron­i­cally, as well as to look into the op­tion of hav­ing “cloud” stor­age in­stead of shelves of pa­per case files.

“Right now, ev­ery per­son has to walk their pa­pers into the of­fice, no mat­ter if they are a lawyer in West Chester or Philadel­phia,” she said. Within a year, she said that par­ties would be able to scan their doc­u­ments — mo­tions, plead­ings, ap­peals — and e-file them. The e-file sys­tem is main­tained by the state’s Uni­fied Ju­di­cial Sys­tem, and would come with no fees at­tached for the county.

More than that, Van de Krol said a plan to be­gin cloud-based stor­age would also be paid for by the state, saving county tax­pay­ers the $100,000 of so an­nual costs as­so­ci­ated with pay­ing for the stor­age.

“It should make ev­ery­thing a lot eas­ier,” she said. “As long as you are pro­fi­cient in tech­nol­ogy, it will make thing a lot more ef­fi­cient,” she said of the e-file op­tion.

Van de Krol says she re­al­izes that her de­sire for mod­ern­iza­tion and fi­nan­cial sav­ings is “a work in progress,” but com­pli­ments her staff at mak­ing things eas­ier to ac­com­plish. “I think the staff is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing. We have 28 peo­ple here and every­body has been work­ing to make the sys­tem work re­ally great.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Yolanda Van de Krol took over as Chester County Clerk of Courts in Jan­uary and is look­ing to mod­ern­ize the of­fice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.