Re:SearchTX - The Latest Updates on the State Mandated Records Database

 

 

One of the hottest discussion topics at this year’s Legislative Conference was arguably Re:SearchTX, a database that is being managed by Office of Court Administration (OCA), using the vendor Tyler Technologies of Plano, Texas. There were two breakout sessions that were filled to capacity as Casey Kennedy, director of information services with OCA, presented the latest information about the program. The sessions’ objective was to provide an overview regarding the continued implementation of the database;  what data and documents Re:SearchTX is collecting;  and the current status and anticipated timelines for moving forward. 

The Texas Supreme Court backed the statewide database, which holds records from all 254 counties. It is currently used by judges and will soon be available to attorneys and the public, providing them with the capabilities of searching civil court records and obtaining a copies from any computer on the internet. This efficient and effective way to access court records does come with some obstacles and challenges, as many court documents contain information that is prohibited from being made available online, as well as the added difficulty of the balancing privacy with public access.

Clerks continue to voice concern during the sessions about the sensitive data contained in court documents, as well as the difficulty of having to manage a statewide database with county records, in addition to the counties’  content management system (CMS) and documents under their care as custodian of the record. Concerns included lost revenues,  uncertainties about additional requirements on clerks to manage the system, liability on the counties if a document is released in error, and the responsibility of manually redacting information or having to purchase redaction software, as many statutes require the attorney to include sensitive data. Kennedy was presenting solely on the technological aspects and timelines of the program. Once that was made clear, he proceeded to do just that.

Why Re:SearchTX

According to Kennedy, the program will help judges who have a multi-county jurisdiction, providing an online solution to review records, without having to log in to each county’s CMS. Once developed it will allow users to search for cases statewide rather than county by county. The new system will also increase transparency, Kennedy said, which will improve public trust and confidence.

What Isn’t Collected?

Re:SearchTX does not contain any filing under the Criminal Case Category, or any filings under the “expunction” or “non-disclosure” case type. “It also does not collect anything that does not travel through eFileTexas,” Kennedy said.

Clerk Options

Before deployment, clerks will be able to choose the type of plan they want. The default is Plan A (or Manual). Under this option, all documents e-filed will be captured at time of filing unless marked by the filer that the document contains sensitive data. This option will provide the clerk a way to interact with the system through a web portal, allowing the qualified administrator of the clerk’s office a manual way to expung or remove cases from eFileTexas/Re:SearchTX, remove documents that are ordered sealed by a court order, and replace documents that may have been filed incorrectly. 

Under Plan B (an Integrated model) all interactions with Re:SearchTX will go through the same third-party CMS counties used when they integrated with eFileTexas. While this is also a manual input plan, it is done through the CMS instead of a web portal and seamlessly integrates with eFileTexas. This plan requires a county’s CMS vendor leverage the integration, which is available now, according to Kennedy. Documents under this plan are stored at the county and are sent to the requestor using Re:SearchTX. 

New Features

There are several new features, according to Kennedy, including: 

Clerks’ ability to seal cases, events or documents in the system by locating the case and selecting the option to seal. If using Plan B, the system mirrors the counties CMS. 

The ability to expunge a case is still processed in eFileTexas by manually going to the website and expunging or removing the case, but now that manual process will integrate with Re:SearchTX, removing the record from the database as well.

In the event a document needs to be replaced or updated, Re:SearchTX provides the capability through administrative rights, the ability to replace or update the record or if they the county elects to leverage integration using Plan B, the information is updated when the clerks CMS is updated.

Timeline

The program is currently available to judges, as well as a few counties that are piloting it to provide documents to attorneys of record by Dec. 31 of this year, with future plans to make it available to all attorneys and the public. 

 

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