xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Maryland tries out electronic court records

This week, courts in Anne Arundel County made the first tentative steps toward using electronic court records, but Maryland has no immediate plans to provide public online access to legal documents.

As Terri Bolling, a spokeswoman for the judiciary, put it: "The system's really designed for attorneys right now."

Advertisement

People involved in non-criminal cases in Anne Arundel County are now required to sign up for an account and file documents through the electronic system. While anyone can create an account, there's not much to see so far, and at least for now only parties in a case will be able to see filings.

Other counties' courts are expected to be brought online over the next few years.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Electronic court records are a powerful tool for reporters and the public to monitor legal actions. Maryland has an online case search system that provides basic information about a case, such as whether defendants are being held in jail, who the lawyers are and when the next court date is.

The federal courts' online system, called PACER, goes further. It provides access to all the documents filed in a case — a trove of information. When criminal charges are filed, affidavits and indictments are quickly available. Complaints in civil lawsuits are also online.

Other tools offer a quick glance at all new filings, guilty pleas and sentencings on a given day. PacerPro, a new third-party app, scans court records and sends email alerts whenever new documents are filed, allowing anyone to keep on top of developing cases.

The public shouldn't hold out hope that Maryland's system will evolve into something like the federal one.

Advertisement

State courts have generally not moved toward full online access to court records, according to Bill Raftery, an analyst at the National Center for State Courts. One reason: Local courts deal with more sensitive types of cases — like custody battles, for example — and handle a much great volume of filings.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement