Thousands of Westmoreland case files to be digitized
Thousands of decades-old criminal case files at the Westmoreland County Clerk of Courts office soon will be available electronically.
County commissioners this month approved a proposal from Ford Business Machines Inc. to scan and index 6,000 files by Aug. 31. Clerk Bryan Kline expects that to equal about 360,000 images at a cost of $35,000.
Files opened between 1980-83 will be the latest target of an ongoing initiative to digitize files in the office. Kline said the costs will be paid through a records improvement fund, which contains money from filing fees collected in the Recorder of Deeds office.
Case files for several years, mainly in the 1980s, already have been digitized.
“It makes it easier for staff and court personnel to just sit down at a computer and look at that image,” he said.
Otherwise, a specific case file would have to be requested and then leafed through to find the right document.
“This is 2019 and I think this information should be at the access of fingertips,” Kline said.
Westmoreland County Clerk of Courts office dockets about 6,500 criminal cases a year.
The work to digitize old criminal case files for use in the clerk’s office comes as Pennsylvania court officials have started scrubbing tens of millions of old, nonviolent criminal charges from the public docket as part of the state’s new Clean Slate law.
Being removed from public view are certain non-violent misdemeanors and summary convictions as well as cases that did not result in convictions.
The General Assembly last summer passed the Clean Slate law — the first of its kind in the country — that requires courts to seal nonviolent misdemeanor records after 10 years, provided the individual had no further brushes with the law, and to automatically seal records of summary offenses and charges that did not result in a criminal conviction.
About 40 million offenses on 30 million cases are expected to be removed from the public docket by year end, according to the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, or AOPC.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .