Courthouse Goes High Tech With Flat Screens

SNOW HILL – The venerable old Worcester County Courthouse in Snow Hill nudged toward the 21st Century last week when several digital monitors displaying the daily dockets for the various courtrooms and other pertinent information were installed.

The new flat-screen digital monitors resemble airport arrival and departure signs and now list each day’s activities including case numbers, participants, courtroom numbers and times. Three of the big digital monitors are placed on a wall in the main lobby of the century-old-plus courthouse with additional monitors placed at the entrance to each of the building’s four courtrooms.

The monitors clearly standout in the otherwise staid old courthouse, which, despite a renovation a few years back, looks not much different than it likely did when it first opened in 1894. The monitors cost an estimated $85,000 and were paid for out of the Clerk of Circuit Court’s budget, which is largely funded through the state judicial system with approval of expenditures by the Maryland General Assembly.

Clerk of Court Steve Hales said the benefits far outweigh the costs of the new monitors.

“It’s part of the cost of doing business,” he said. “Our purpose is to provide good service. I know this looks a little like overkill, but they will provide a good service to visitors to the courthouse.”

The monitors are connected to the statewide UCS Unified Court System’s mainframe and provide current information about the daily dockets in Worcester County’s Circuit Court as well as other pertinent information. They were installed last week and the bugs are still being worked out, according to Hales.

“We’ve been using them for about three days now,” he said on Tuesday. “It will probably take about 10 days until we figure out everything they can do.”

While similar digital docket displays have existed in other court buildings around the state for years, Worcester isn’t exactly behind the times in terms of technology. According to Hales, the county was the first in the state to offer digitalized land records, titles and deeds.

While most regular visitors to the courthouse easily navigate the maze of corridors, courtrooms and offices, others often find themselves lost in the old courthouse, according to Hales. The new monitors will help alleviate the confusion and allow visiting attorneys, plaintiffs and defendants from other states and others with business in the courthouse to easily find out where they should be, according to Hales.

“Very often, people come to the courthouse for a trial or other business and they forget to bring their paperwork with them,” he said. “These signs help direct them to where they are supposed to be.”

While the digital monitors look somewhat out of place, at least at first, in the courthouse, they will help bring the old building up to date with the times, according to Hales.

“It’s a high-tech world and we want to part of that,” he said. “We’re just as progressive as anywhere else.”