BROOKFIELD - Eastern District Court joined municipal courts in Newton Falls and Girard in connecting to a statewide justice information exchange system that gives judges and court employees a wider net in searching backgrounds of those appearing in court.
Developed by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Courts Network (OCN) serves as a centralized warehouse of case-related data, enabling courts and justice system partners to share information and to support functions such as criminal history reviews, warrant and protection order searches, presentencing investigations, background checks and precustody reviews.
"We are honored to become a part of the Ohio Courts Network and we look forward to a long relationship for the benefit of all the courts across the state of Ohio," Eastern District Judge Ronald J. Rice said.
''It's a positive thing and it's all about sharing information,'' Rice said. ''It makes it easier to check probation records elsewhere in the state and it's a good way to track repeat offenders.''
Local courts' case management systems send data each night to the Ohio Supreme Court, which then integrates and securely stores the information and makes it available to other courts and justice system partners. As a closed, private, secure application, the OCN is not a public website, according to Robert Stuart, Supreme Court information technology director.
"Through the OCN, the flow of information between local courts and justice system partners is improved because of the availability of current, accurate and centralized data," Stuart said.
"Judges know more about the person charged with a crime who's standing before them, and state agencies can access case disposition data as soon as the court has entered it into the local system. Because of this, better decisions are made based on the additional information available."
Stuart said connecting to the OCN involves only a few steps: signing an agreement to share local court data; training the authorized local court users; and connecting to the OCN and loading cases. Strict protocol governs the appropriate use of the OCN data by court staff, he said.
The justice system partners' records available through the OCN include those from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation criminal history database and any case-related record from local courts connected to the OCN.
Statewide, nearly 220 courts are connected to the OCN, and many other courts are in various stages of connectivity. Some courts have begun loading case data, some courts are testing their connectivity before loading cases, and some courts have scheduled implementation.
In Trumbull County, Eastern District, Girard and Newton Falls Municipal Courts, along with several courts at all levels in Mahoning County are in production and among 218 courts, making up 65.2 percent of the case volume. The courts have cases and data loaded and reviewed with daily updates sent to the OCN.
No local courts are among the three other courts in the state, or 0.9 percent of the caseload volume that have started loading data.
Trumbull County Common Pleas, including the general division, domestic relations and juvenile, are in the testing stage among 26 courts or 14.4 percent of the case volume that have started checking connectivity. But no cases have been loaded for production.
Trumbull County Probate Court and Central District have been or will soon be contacted to schedule OCN hookups. The sites are among 69 courts across the state or 8.6 percent of the state's case volume.
Municipal Courts in Warren and Niles are among 56 courts, or 10.9 percent of the statewide case volume that have technical issues preventing a connection to the OCN or have chosen to not participate in the network, according to the Ohio Supreme Court.