First Published: August 3, 2020
AS COURTS SLOWLY REOPEN, PATIENCE IS NEEDED
To increase social distancing and prevent spread of infection, physical courthouses across the country were generally closed to in-person proceedings, impacting the ability to complete background searches. Completion of background checks became impossible due to lack of access to clerks and court information via Public Access Terminals (PATs). While courts are now slowly opening, the net impact is a huge backlog of searches that have to work their way through these slowly reopening courthouses.
Recently, some courts are letting PBSA members access court records remotely via a home or office computer. While this is a welcome development, this does not mean that backlogs will be immediately eliminated. Background screeners and the courts have to process tens of thousands of those backlogged checks. In some states that just re-opened, for example New Jersey, the backlog is especially severe. For courts that are open, office hours to conduct such searches have been limited or non-existent. Additionally, some local courts have been giving misleading information to job candidates about how quickly background searches can be performed and the availability of court records. Most often, the information provided refers to average completion rates for background checks, not completion rates following months of court closures and tens of thousands of background checks to move through the system.
As courts begin to re-open, we know that everyone is ready to get back to standard turnaround times, but we also know that delays are still on the horizon. Just like the realities of this pandemic, it will be quite a while until things return to normal. Background screeners are making every effort to be expedient within the boundaries set by the pandemic and by government, and work to expand those boundaries back toward normalcy. In turn, PBSA is working to encourage and support courts to open up remote access alternatives that can alleviate backlogs from occurring in the future.