Denton County records are going digital.
Denton County commissioners voted to make civil and family court records available to the public via a digital portal when they agreed to pen an agreement with Tyler Technologies on Tuesday night. The item was placed on the agenda by Precinct 1 Commissioner Hugh Coleman, who is also a lawyer.
“In order to become more transparent and in order to provide the public with better services and facilitate open government, I’ve always thought it was a good idea to put the court records that are in our county and district courts on the internet,” he said.
Both David Trantham, the Denton County district clerk, and Juli Luke, county clerk, spoke at the meeting, explaining that because of the existing online filing system, the move would be relatively painless for staff.
“We think this is the best solution to make records available,” Luke said.
The agreement does not cost the county any money, and reduces costs of records for the public. Currently, records cost $1 a page. The new system reduces the cost to 10 cents a page. Tyler Technologies’s system is already used by Dallas County, and Collin County officials are also working with the company for digitized records.
There isn’t a clear timeline for implementation of the new system. Additionally, it won’t include criminal records initially because criminal documents require more redaction and restrictions.
Commissioners discussed what measures would be in place to make sure that personal information like names of minors and Social Security numbers wouldn’t be visible in the system, a concern of previous clerks resistant to digitization.
When attorneys file documents online with the county, the onus is on them to make sure all sensitive information is redacted, Trantham said. Additionally, staff comb through filings to make sure there aren’t any slip-ups and that all of the documents are high enough quality, he said.
“There’s no 100 percent guarantee with anything, but at the end of the day, I think it comes down to access to public records and making it easier for the general public to see things,” he said. “We’re in the 21st century now, where everybody has a computer in their homes for the most part, and now they could log in and see that without having to drive down to the courthouse to do it.”
Tuesday’s meeting was also the first public hearing on Denton County’s proposed tax rate, $0.2252 per $100 valuation, although no members of the public spoke. A second public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 10 a.m., right before the Commissioners Court will vote on whether to approve the new tax rate and budget.