Doxpop - Tools for Attorneys and Public Information Researchers: March 2022

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Judgment Search is known to be incomplete, but still useful.

The Judgment Search is Incomplete. 

Here's an explanation of why, and what we're doing to fix it.

In August, we released our new judgment search with high hopes of providing a simple and comprehensive tool for finding judgments. It turns out we got ahead of ourselves. Here's an outline of the two significant issues we have identified, and how we're addressing them.

The context:

The data for the judgment search comes directly from the Indiana Courts. Doxpop pays the Indiana Office of Judicial Administration to send us a real-time data feed of public court information. One of the elements included in this data feed is a judgment record, which creates the Record of Judgments and Orders (RJO) book for county clerks. It is this judgment record that we search for when you do a judgment search.

What we got wrong:

(1) The data feed from the State Courts is incorrectly formatted. The issue is that when multiple judgment records exist on a case, the Court is sending us just one of the records. The Court IT folks quickly agreed that this is wrong and they are working helpfully with us to resolve that problem. Fixing this is a big project that will take more than a month.

(2) Because the judgment records drive the process to create the RJO book automatically, we expected that every court would make judgment entries. We were wrong. Some courts aren't using this tool to report judgments, so we can't do a complete judgment search in their counties.

How we'll resolve the problem:

The data feed issue described above is in the process of being resolved. There's a lot of work involved, but the solution is clear. When the judgment records are coming in correctly via the State Court data feed, we'll be able to tell you that the judgment search is complete for the counties that enter judgment records.

The second issue is a more complex one because we can't control the court's choices about internal business processes. Every court in Indiana that hears civil cases has a tool that will make their work easier... but we can't force them to use it. What we can do is survey the courts and give you a verified list of the courts that are entering the judgment records, and the date they started. We're in the process of doing that survey now, and will be releasing information about the participating counties shortly.

What you should do until both problems are fixed:

A regular case search on Doxpop will reliably return cases that a person is involved in statewide, and by visually scanning the minute entries, you can locate the entries noting when a judgment has been rendered. This is the way it's been done for years, so stick to the old reliable methods until we have a better solution. To make sure you search for every variation on a name, we suggest that you use our "super search" tool or do wildcard searching.

Why is the judgment search still useful?

We suggest still doing a judgment search in addition to a regular case search because although the judgment search is incomplete, every record it returns is definitely a judgment against the name you searched for. Doing a judgment search only takes a few seconds and may locate a judgment you missed with your visual scan of minute entries. Redundancy is useful when doing a thorough job is important.