Eastern Oregon circuit courts disconnected Monday from the state’s old electronic court management system and signed on to the new eCourt.

The Oregon eCourt Case Information System — aka OECIS, aka Odyssey — went live for circuit courts in Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties. The state rolled out eCourt in phases, starting with Jackson County in March 2013, and the eastern counties were the last in the state to plug in. The state aims to use the new system to cut down on paper documents, rely on digital copies as official court documents and speed up handling information.

David Factor, the staff council for the state court’s department of education, training and outreach, said the main component is the Odyssey case management system, effectively the case registry for the court system.

Odyssey replaces the 36-year-old Oregon Judicial Information Network — or OJIN — which required users to master function keys and type in specific codes to find criminal and civil court information, including case history and offender convictions. But OJIN did not include copies of court documents, which the new system does, at least in part.

Accessing those, however, requires paying for a subscription to the Oregon Judicial Case Information Network. That costs $100 to establish an account and another $35 a month, according to information from state courts, and new users will have to fill out an application as well.

Factor said most subscribers are government users and court filers, such as attorneys. News organizations also often subscribe to get access to court information.

The East Oregonian is a subscriber.

The public also can go to state court offices and use a computer terminal to access court information, but they probably will not see digital documents.

Roy Blaine has been on the front row of the local transition to eCourt. He is the trial court administrator for the 6th District Circuit Courts of Umatilla and Morrow counties. He said for the time being, the public will have to ask court staff to see documents.

He also said Eastern Oregon counties still do not have electronic filing of court paperwork, but that is coming in July when it will be “permissive,” meaning an attorney, for example, will have the choice of handing staff a paper document or emailing a digital one.

“But by the end of August it will be mandatory,” he said.

Until the permissive period begins, hard copies are a must in local courts. Blaine said staff makes digital scans of those and keeps the paper copies in a box until other workers compare the paper and digital copies to make sure they are identical. At that point, he said, staff destroys the hard copy.

Electronic court has been in the works more than a decade, and the state estimates the whole project will cost around $93 million. And while the state promises the new system will work better than clunky OJIN, some public information is an early casualty.

State courts used to provide online copies of courtroom schedules, which included names of defendants, attorneys, a summary of criminal charges in criminal matters.

Now an online search engine replaces those digital copies, but the search results — when they appear — lack lists of charges.

Blaine said the public end of providing information remains in process, but he would check into the issue. He said it makes sense someone can look at a court calender and tell what charges defendants are facing.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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