It has been our experience that the most common misconception about the Criminal Research Provider process is that there is some sort of governing body within the court system that regulates the guidelines and practices for in-court research. In most states, the individual courthouses create their own policies regarding how access to the public index is administered. Each court having its own nuanced set of guidelines makes educating clients an ongoing process and changes can happen with little to no notice.
The steady development and implementation of new technologies has had the largest effect on every aspect of the Provider experience. In the early 2000s, vendors were limited to bringing paper search lists to the court and generally submitted results via fax. In 2021, tablets and laptops are the most common and secure way to manage the day’s work (as long as electronics are permitted to be brought into the courthouse). Modern practice is to process results through integrations between software platforms and proprietary APIs, allowing for dramatically reduced turn-around from the time a request is received and when it is returned. The future is trending even further toward complete automation when managing and submitting completed searches. That’s the good developments. On a less exciting note, as more courts update their computerized indexes we are seeing an increase in the redactions of personal identifying information, making it significantly more difficult to confirm that a record matches the requested subject. This trend of limiting the amount of PII available to the public should be anticipated as a potential future challenge to our industry.
I’ll omit the obvious complications that COVID-19 has presented in terms of court access because this has been well documented, and will (knock on every piece of wood) be remedied in the not-so-distant future. Instead, I will acknowledge the somewhat paradoxical relationship that court researchers often have with clerks. As regulars at the courthouse our requests for file pulls, record questions, and sometimes even the need for general assistance is often deprioritized because “there’s always tomorrow.” This creates a delicate dynamic between vendors and courthouse staff and it can quickly become problematic if an applicant or CRA tries to circumnavigate the established process.
County House Research’s company culture is based on the principles of honesty, adaptability, and accountability. We regularly use the phrase “it’s our search too” to describe our philosophy when it comes to our approach at the courts and with our clients. We understand the services we provide enable companies to make informed hiring decisions, and this is a responsibility that is taken very seriously.
As stated above, the lack of regulation in terms of researcher/vendor/furnisher rights is a consistent pain point. Providers would love to participate in any initiatives that would classify researchers as something other than me