Processing paperwork through the Kent County’s sheriff’s office just got a lot easier, faster and less prone to mistakes, thanks to a new electronic data transfer system.

Processing paperwork through the Kent County’s sheriff’s office just got a lot easier, faster and less prone to mistakes.

OK, so transferring legal documents back and forth is not the most exciting thing in the world. But, if someone happens to be involved in a legal case, delays in handling important documents can be frustrating. If those documents are lost or destroyed, then the real headaches begin.

The Kent County sheriff’s office, headed by Sheriff Norman Wood, is the first in the nation to bulk file sheriff returns. The new system is the brainchild of software vendors SoftCode and File & ServeXpress. The project actually is an addition to the office’s existing computer software and as such was put into place without costing Kent Countians any additional money.

The upgrades went online in mid-May, said county technology administrator Dorothy Cheatham.

“With these upgrades, we can actually enhance all of the services done by the sheriff’s office,” Cheatham said.

One of the primary jobs for Wood and his deputies is to serve legal documents and then ensure they are funneled into the county’s court system. These documents, generally known as writs, include summons and complaints, property levies, name changes and judgments. Wood’s team delivers the paperwork to attorneys, litigants and witnesses and then certifies the documents have been legally served.

In the past, physical documents had to be printed out, copied, processed and delivered by hand to the Kent County Superior Court.

With the new system, it’s all done electronically and instantaneously.

“We no longer have to drive over to the courthouse and hand the papers to a clerk,” Cheatham said. “No one has to leave the office.”

Likewise, court clerks have been relieved of the tedious work of date-stamping the documents, scanning them into a digital database and then storing stacks of paper.

And once the electronically-generated legal notices are received, they’re instantly available to anyone who requires them.

“We’re saving a lot of time and a lot of gas,” Cheatham said.

Sheriff Norman Wood said the system allows his staff to streamline their tasks, resulting in greater efficiency and effectiveness. But there’s more.

“As we proceed with fully implementing this, laptops will be installed into my deputy’s vehicles, thus allowing them the ability to scan a barcode and upload a document immediately once it’s been served,” he said. 

They system only has been online for about a month, so it’s much too early to put a dollar figure on the savings, but Cheatham believes they will be noticeable. That’s particularly true for an office that handles up to 600 cases each month.

Currently the new documentation filing program only is used for cases handled by Superior Court, but studies are underway to try to bring in some of the other county courts. Sheriff’s offices in New Castle and Sussex counties also are studying how they might adopt the process for themselves. Having each county sheriff’s office online also will facilitate communication between courts in each county, Cheatham said.

“Once they’re onboard, I’m sure they’ll share the relief and the attorney’s offices will be very happy,” she said.