OUR VIEW: SD records open, but not easily accessibleTo continue toward true public access, the public documents at the Davison County Courthouse should be able to be viewed by anyone with a computer — and not just at terminals provided at the courthouse.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
With the installation of the new Odyssey court-records system, South Dakota has taken a great step in modernizing how it files its court-related documents.
Next, it’s important to take the steps to truly bring the system to up to the standards of today, 2013.
Last Tuesday, The Daily Republic noted how Davison County has switched to digital record-keeping. The new system, known as Odyssey, will file and store all sorts of court-related records, as part of an $11 million statewide conversion from an older, outdated system.
With the new protocol in place, the need for physical storage of files will eventually be eliminated. Clerks will be able to digitally file documents and process payments, and law-enforcement offices will have the ability to digitally submit citations.
Also, to provide some public access, computer terminals will be installed in courthouses.
These are all good things, and we’re happy to see this finally happening.
But since this is Sunshine Week — a time set aside each March by newspaper associations to help promote openness in government — we cannot miss the opportunity to say that progress still must be made with providing the public with records that are deemed legally open.
To continue toward true public access, the public documents at the Davison County Courthouse should be able to be viewed by anyone with a computer — and not just at terminals provided at the courthouse.
That kind of access is available in states like North Dakota and Minnesota, but not here in the Rushmore State.
For example, The Daily Republic last year considered an investigation into the driving records of our state lawmakers.
After all, they are the ones who continually determine that speeding isn’t an offense that can lead to driver’s license suspension.
But a great hurdle arose. We were told that finding the driving records of more than 100 lawmakers would cost $15 apiece. The total came to more than $1,500.
That’s a big chunk of change for accessing records that are supposedly open to the public.
Meanwhile, a newspaper within our own company beat us to the punch. The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead recently did the very same story, investigating lawmakers from North Dakota.
The Forum obtained the basic information via the Internet, much more cheaply than we could have in South Dakota.
When the Forum considered checking North Dakota lawmaker names in South Dakota records, they were stunned at the hurdles that arose before them.
“It’s ridiculous what they charge you guys down there,” a Forum reporter told us.