For 35 years, citizens and professionals in Pasco County have relied on a cumbersome and ungainly interface to look up court records.
It's called the Consolidated Justice Information System, CJIS for short, and it was written in the COBOL programming language. To navigate, you can't use a mouse, and you need to know specific keyboard commands that are hard to remember.
In October, it will finally be laid to rest.
"I'm really anxious to release CJIS," Pasco County Clerk of Courts Paula O'Neil said. "It's very cumbersome."
The new system in Pasco will be call Clericus. It cost about $585,000, according to O'Neil, who said the price is low because it's currently in use by more than 35 other counties in Florida, and they all share the cost. The system will go live for criminal cases in October; it's already in use for civil cases.
With the new system, attorneys can file documents themselves. The files then go to a portal where a clerk views them, and after that they go into an interface where judges can see them.
"As we move forward, all the files will be coming in through e-filing," said Tim Jamison, the Clerk's Office director of information technology. "We won't be sending paper to storage."
The process of converting all of the old records from CJIS to Clericus — some 48 million — is already under way.
Though Pasco and Pinellas share the same circuit, they use different systems. A new $10 million system called Odyssey went live in Pinellas earlier this month.
Odyssey and Clericus are both designed to allow the public to read more documents online, without having to physically go to the courthouse. Both systems are integrated with all the other judicial agencies in the county, meaning the Public Defender's Office and the State Attorney's office will be using both in their respective counties.
Circuit spokesman Ron Stuart said Pasco and Pinellas came to different conclusions about the best way to upgrade CJIS. Odyssey, he said, is in use in seven other large Florida counties.
The company that made Odyssey offered it to Pasco, in order to give the two counties a uniform system. Pasco would have had to pay only for implementation and maintenance.
O'Neil said that when Odyssey was offered during a County Commission meeting in 2010, she already had a contract with the company that sells Clericus. Also, the maintenance fee was an issue, she said.
"The estimate for maintenance was $267,000 annually," she said. "And it wouldn't be anything that would be designed for Pasco. Two years of that and we would've paid for Clericus."
The fee to maintain Clericus is $80,000 a year, she said.
Sixth Circuit Public Defender Bob Dillinger said he has staff members who travel between both counties and will have to learn both systems.
"We don't know yet if having two systems could be problematic. We had virtually identical systems with CJIS," he said. "I don't know what it's going to be like. Odyssey is certainly different than CJIS. We don't know about Clericus yet."