Originally created 11/07/02

Clerk helps start online program



State Court judges in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties will have access to courthouse records 24 hours a day under a pilot program in the Augusta Judicial Circuit.

"We are going to be the project leader of this," Superior Court Clerk Elaine Johnson said. "We'll eventually venture out to other circuits."

The judges will be able to use their computers from any location to access the system and retrieve records on indicted criminal cases. The change would help court cases move along faster.

The project comes as Mrs. Johnson joins the Georgia Courts Automation Commission as the only clerk, an appointment made by Georgia Chief Justice Norman Fletcher. The commission's role is to help automate all court systems in the state, Richmond County Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet said.

"They kind of set the standard for all the automation in the courts, so all the courts will be on the same plan," Judge Overstreet said. "Hopefully, she'll be a great help in making Richmond County move in that direction."

Mrs. Johnson serves on the commission with 10 judges, including Justice Fletcher, a Court of Appeals judge and three Superior Court judges. She began serving Oct. 24 when the commission held its quarterly meeting in Atlanta.

"It was a real honor for me to be selected as the only clerk to be on it out of a possible 159" clerks in the state, Mrs. Johnson said. "I feel I am well abreast of how the system flows."

In the pilot project, officials in the Augusta Judicial Circuit will work to connect their three counties before the circuit combines with Toombs Judicial Circuit, which includes McDuffie, Glascock, Lincoln, Taliaferro, Warren and Wilkes counties.

"A lot of counties don't have the cases stored in a database," Judge Overstreet said. "You have to call and ask a clerk, and they either have to mail it to you or fax it to you."

Eventually, the state will be brought online and all circuits in Georgia will be able to access records, including criminal and civil cases. But for now, they will concentrate on getting the Augusta Judicial Circuit going.

"Hopefully, we'll have something online right after the first of the year," Judge Overstreet said.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.