A Pennsylvania county is working on making civil records not only easier to access but also, in most cases, free. Anyone with a flash drive can now download, free of charge, civil court records from the Lancaster County prothonotary office, which is the custodial agency for those documents.
Lancaster’s prothonotary, Randall Wenger, said the office started offering the service in January. The aim was to make the public records search more of a "self-service feature," he said, offering greater access particularly to local reporters and lawyers who want lengthier documents.
Lancaster New Era staff writer Tom Murse recently wrote a story on the prothonotary’s efforts and said in an interview it is one of the few agencies he is aware of that makes such records available for free downloading. Aside from the time-saving benefits for both the agency and requesters, he said, having electronic copies of the documents so readily available during the news-writing process "certainly reduces the possibility of errors" for reporters.
Digital records also make it easier to share data with colleagues and upload documents to the Web for readers, Murser said.
So far, the public can digitally access civil documents from the past decade at the agency’s office. As of now, only dockets and case numbers are available online and accessible remotely, but the office is in the process of putting the complete records online this year.
"That’s a pretty big deal," Murser said. "The move to putting those records online would make our jobs a lot easier."