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Judicial Modernization Legislation is now Law
July 15, 2014
HARRISBURG- A bill has been signed into law by the governor that will give the public easier access to court records and save taxpayer money.

Senator Matt Smith of Allegheny County amended his judicial modernization proposal into a House Bill that will give the public easier access to court records and save taxpayer money.

House Bill 1337 was signed into law by Gov. Corbett on Wednesday. Senator Smith sponsored Senate Bill 372, which expands the authorized methods of recording and storing judicial records to include optical imaging technology, in which data is scanned and stored electronically, in contrast to the current use of microfilm or microfiche. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was consulted to ensure that judicial records are properly preserved. That bill was amended into HB 1337.

“By allowing courts to make the switch and utilize current and future technological best practices, we will save taxpayer dollars,” Senator Smith said. The plan received the backing of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Allegheny County reports an estimated yearly savings of $230,000 in storage costs, and expects additional savings moving forward with the signing of this legislation into law.

Senator Smith also praised the underlying bill sponsored by a Luzerne County Republican lawmaker that increases state funding for low-income legal services across Pennsylvania for situations of domestic violence, potential loss of housing, and custody disputes, among other issues. The new law increases a court surcharge from $1 to $2 that is dedicated to civil legal services.

“House Bill 1337 funds important programs, like Neighborhood Legal Services Association, to ensure that low-income individuals have adequate access to legal aid,” said Senator Smith, a former board member on the Neighborhood Legal Services Association of Western Pennsylvania.

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