CHARLESTON – A state agency has taken another step into the information age by placing decisions made by its administrative law judges online.
Earlier this year, the West Virginia Human Rights Commission placed final decisions rendered in complaints filed with the Commission on its Web site. Though decisions have always been available to the public, placing them online, said Phyllis H. Carter, the Commission's chief administrative law judge, gives the public further insight into the Commission's work.
"I think state government should be open to the public," Carter said. "I think this an excellent move. It helps the public at-large see how the administrative law judge makes a decision."
Though she spearheaded the project, Carter said placing the cases online was a collaborative effort by the Commission's staff, including Ivin Lee, the executive director. Lee, Carter said, asked the project be undertaken at the request of the West Virginia Bar Association, and those doing research, especially law students, into civil rights-related issues.
"The reason we made the cases online is that we had several requests from attorneys who were representing complainants," Carter said. "We heard what the Bar had to say, and we acted."
The cases currently online are the final decisions of the administrative law judge in cases back to 1990. Cases in which no probable cause was found in a complaint, or an appeal of the judge's decision to circuit or the state Supreme Court are not on the Website.
"We don't have a follow-up online," Carter said.
In addition to placing new cases online, Carter said an effort is being made to archive old cases. Soon final decisions going back to the 1970s will be placed on the Commission's site.
The challenge in archiving some of the older cases, Carter said, is ensuring completeness. Because of a variety of reasons, including how the judge may have worded his or her opinion in the case, makes ensuring the case was final difficult.
Thus far, Carter said about 100 man-hours have been put logged in the project. Using other state agencies as a guide, Carter said she's confident anyone looking at a Commission case online is getting all the information he or she needs.
"I checked around with some of the other state agencies who have decisions online, this is inline with what they do," Carter said.
To find the Web page with the final orders, start at http://www.wvf.state.wv.us/wvhrc/Index.htm.