Thursday, March 17, 2005

Carpenter selected to travel to India

Staff Writer

Marshall County Circuit Clerk Lucy Carpenter has been asked to travel to Bangalore, India, to help test a records management system being developed for potential use by the state of Mississippi.

Software developer Amer Jneid, of Aliso Viejo, California, and his business partner Judge Robert J. Polis, is providing the e-Manage Law software, Carpenter said. The company has hired software engineers from India to help with implementation and testing of the software that is being fine-tuned for use by Mississippi’s First and Third Judicial Districts.

North Mississippi’s chancery and circuit courts will study the new e-filing and case management system for the state, according to Carpenter.

A software under development by engineers in India, will make it possible for those willing to pay a fee to access some public documents using the Internet.

Land deeds, minutes of the board of supervisors meetings, and chancery and circuit court dockets and files are among the kinds of records the state wants to put on-line. But before that can be done, the system has to be tested with some sample data from chancery and circuit clerks’ offices to work out any “bugs” in the software, Carpenter said.

She will provide engineers with circuit court data necessary to test the new software.

The new system would make it possible for the public to do a web-based search for land records and other chancery and circuit clerk office records instead of having to manually search through court records for documents. Attorneys would be able to file cases electronically and to view cases on-line from their offices - all for a subscriber’s fee.

Carpenter is one of two county circuit clerks and 21 other invited committee members selected by the state supreme court justices to help evaluate a case management software called e-Manage Law.

Added to that system will be an electronic case filing component and a county records management program, Carpenter said.

Traveling to India with Carpenter are Bill Benson, and Reggie Collums, chancery clerks of Lee and Pontotoc counties, respectively, and Charlotte Williams, a former circuit clerk now working with Three Rivers Planning and Development District.

“I’m convinced this program will be the one finally adopted for the state,” she said. “Our district is going to be several steps ahead when this all comes about.”

“We will be the first state in the nation to have a system just written for us,” she said. “Some states are doing parts but nobody is doing the whole package.”

Software engineers from India were contracted by e-Manage Law to prepare the state’s circuit and chancery court docket management system because of cost savings, Carpenter said.

The Marshall County Board of Supervisors approved a request for $4,500 from the Northeast MIssissippi Planning and Developoment District to pay for Carpenter’s travel at the March 7 meeting.

Three Rivers Planning and Development District and Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development Districts are helping coordinate the project which will initially benefit a total of 14 counties in the districts and ultimately the entire state if the project is implemented statewide.

The idea to implement an e-filing system for court cases and clerks arose with judges in the two judicial districts, Carpenter said.

“Judge Tommy Gardner with the First Judicial District in Tupelo and Three Rivers Planning and Development got the whole thing started,” said Carpenter. “He invited all the judges - circuit judge Andy Howorth, chancery judge Ed Roberts, circuit judge Henry Lackey and chancery judge Glen Alderson - all of them to be involved in promoting it.

“Then it was Judge Gardner who went to the state supreme court and said the districts wanted to do this and that he wanted to see if it would meet the requirements of the state supreme court.”

Carpenter said an electronic filing system already in place in federal courts to manage court case and court docket information will be mandated.

“Judge Gardner recognized it was just a matter of time before this would be required for circuit and chancery courts,” said Carpenter. “Eventually, it is going to be a court system, but the beauty of what we are doing is that more - law enforcement records and Justice court records - can be added on.”

Carpenter said the electronic filing of court case information will be especially helpful to judges who have to travel to seven counties in their district to hear cases and hold court.

“Once it is in place, we will be able to see dockets on the Internet,” said Carpenter. “Lee County has already set up a tentative date to install it.

“Just as important as the court cases are the land deeds. It will mainly make it more accessible to the public.”

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