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October 04, 2012 05:55 PM

Records Conversion Hiccups At Courthouse

Sioux Falls, SD

The massive switch to electronic record keeping within the Second Circuit Court System is going better than expected, but not without some bumps and backlogs along the way.  Courts within Minnehaha and Lincoln County are converting 8.5 million records dating back a quarter century.

The rundown of hearings at the Minnehaha County Courthouse now look a little like flight schedules at the airport.  Gone are the paper sheets listing court times, replaced by a wide screen that scrolls through the day's docket.

"So we don't have to send court staff around with pieces of calendar we've snipped apart with a pair of scissors and thumb-tack it to bulletin boards any longer," Second Circuit Court Administrator Karl Thoennes said.

The high-tech calendar is part of the conversion of records to a new electronic database that's been underway for the past week.  Courthouse staff and technicians have kept been plugging away at their computers to stay on top of the upgrades.

"It's been stressful for the staff.  Some of the people feel like they've been in the building for the last couple of weeks," Thoennes said.

Administrators expected some problems with such a big undertaking within the state's largest court system.  But they say all the difficulties so far have been manageable.  The biggest hiccups happened Monday when the conversion actually slowed down record searches throughout the entire state of South Dakota.

"The staff in the rest of the state is really fast.  They'll run multiple record searches at the same time, waiting for the computers to respond and so for a little while we had to do one at a time.  We're back to generally pretty normal, so we're relieved to know that progress is rolling along again well," Thoennes said.

Administrators scheduled fewer hearings this week to help ease into the transition.  But there were still some backup of cases on Monday.  A new system designed to streamline the judicial system requires slow, steady progress in order to finally get up to speed.

Administrators say the conversion is going so well, they probably won't have to use Monday's Native American Day holiday to catch up with any more trouble-shooting.

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